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Full text of "Life of St. Benedict surnamed "The Moor" : the son of a slave, canonized by Pope Pius VII, May 24th, 1807"

JOHN M. KELLY LIBRARY 




Donated by 

The Redemptorists of 
the Toronto Province 

from the Library Collection of 
Holy Redeemer College, Windsor 



University of 
St. Michael s College, Toronto 



NVCT KEQttMER UWWRY. WIN 





LIFE 



ST. BENEDICT 



SURNAMED 



"THE MOOR," 



a 



CANONIZED BY POPE PIUS VIL, MAY 24th, 1807. 



TRANSLATED FEOM THE FRENCH OF M. ALLIBERT. 
Canon of the Primatial Church of Lyons. 



P. J. KENEDY & SONS 

$tabltal?mi to life IMg Apoatoltr 9r 
".4 BARCLAY STREET, NEW YORK 




,/ 




CONTENTS. 



VAOB. 

DEDICATION. 5 

APPROBATIONS 9 

OHAPTBB. 

L COUNTRY, PARENTS, AND BIRTH OF ST. 

BENEDICT, II 

n. ST. BENEDICT S CHILDHOOD, 17 

HI. ST. BENEDICT IN THE HERMITAGE, 23 

IV. ST. BENEDICT ON MOUNT PELLEGRINO, ... 35 

LV. HE ENTERS THE REFORMED MINOR OB- 

SERVANTINS, 44 

VI. BROTHER BENEDICT IS EMPLOYED IN THE 

KITCHEN OF THE CONVENT, 59 

VII. ST. BENEDICT IS MADE GUARDIAN, .... 68 

VIII. ST. BENEDICT IS ELECTED VICAR AND MAS 
TER OF NOVICES, 8O 

a. ST. BENEDICT S DOCTRINE, 87 



4 Contents. 

CHAPTER. *JLO 

X. THE GIFT OF PROPHECY BESTOWED ON 

OUR SAINT, 97 

XI. ST. BENEDICT RETURNS TO THE KITCHEN, III 

XH. MIRACLES WROUGHT BY THE SAINT DUR 
ING HIS LIFE, 124 

xiii. ST. BENEDICT S ILLNESS AND DEATH, . . 135 

XIV. MIRACLES OPERATED AFTER HIS DEATH, 147 
XV. THE DEVOTION TO ST. BENEDICT, ..... 164 

xvi. PROOFS OF BENEDICT S VIRTUES, 176 

XVII. OF THE FRUIT THAT MAY BE DRAWN 

FROM THIS LIFE, 193 

LITANY OF ST. BENEDICT, 211 




TO THE SERAPHIC PATRIARCH. 



ST. FRA.NOIS. 



CANNOT do better, O holy Patriarch, 
than dedicate to thee this Abridgment 
of the Life of St. Benedict, thy Son, 
who now enjoys eternal happiness in 
the arms of his Father. I do this the 
more readily, since I need not recall thy 
glory, which shines from age to age, al 
though we may celebrate it without incur 
ring the reproach of flattery, which may 
usually be made against dedicatory epis 
tles. It is true, nevertheless, that the 



6 (Dedication. 

merits of children who walk in their 
father s footsteps, and the glory they win, 
always redound to the father s greater 
honor. Our Saint is a striking proof of 
this. When we read that the countenance 
of St Benedict of Sanfratello became 
bright and shining when he was in prayer, 
during the night, we are immediately 
reminded of the wonderful brightness thou 
didst shed around thee, in so much, that 
the cell in which thou wast praying seemed 
all on fire, and the deceived beholders ran 
in haste to extinguish the flames. The 
same may be said of those fundamental 
virtues, by which our Saint walked in thy 
blessed footsteps, tinged with the blood of 
those seraphic wounds which had pierced 
his heart also. Thou wast accustomed, 
during prayer, to take refuge under the 
wings of St. Michael the Archangel. St 
Benedict was faithful to the same practice. 



(Dedication. J 

That we may not make too many compari 
sons, we shall content ourselves with recall 
ing his veneration for the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy which he had drawn from thy 
Testament, in which thou dost say, speak* 
ing of the sacerdotal order: "// is my 
desire to fear the priests, to love and honor 
them as my superiors. I am unwilling to 
see any sin in them> because in each I con 
sider the Son of God, and regard them as 
my masters" 

What may render this Abridgment still 
more agreeable to thee, O venerable 
Father, is, that thy son Benedict zealously 
applied himself to imitate and honor thee 
perfectly; I, then, enter into his views by 
dedicating to thee this short account of his 
life, composed on the occasion of his 
canonization. There is, then, reason to 
hope that it will be agreeable to both 
father and child; happy shall I be, if I 



8 (Dedication. 

obtain hereby, from either, that protection 
which I, with all the reformed religious, 
implore, prostrate at thy feet 

F. JACQUES. 
Postulator-Gewal* 




APPROBATION 



BY the order of the most reverend Mas 
ter of the Sacred Apostolic Palace, I have 
read the Life of St. Benedict of Sanfratello, 
surnamed the Moor: not only have I 
found therein nothing contrary to the holy 
Catholic faith or to good morals, but I 
have been led to admire the order and 
clearness with which the author has drawn 
the picture of the heroic virtues and excel 
lent gifts which our Lord had so generous 
ly poured out on the soul of his servant 
Consequently, I judge the publication of 
this work conducive to the spiritual good 
of the faithful. 

Convent of the Minerva, the 3d of 
August, 1805. 

FR. THOMAS M. MANCINI, 

Of the Order of Preachers, Professor of Theology, and Con- 
suitor of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. 

9 



PERMISSION OF THE ORDINARY. 



WE, Vicar-General of his Grace the 
Archbishop of Amasia, Apostolic Admin 
istrator of the Diocese of Lyons, having 
read the manuscript entitled "Life of St. 
Benedict of Sanfratello," translated liter 
ally from the Italian by M. Allibert, Canon 
of Lyons; having seen the very respecta 
ble approbations already given the work ; 
after the testimony of a theologian as pious 
as enlightened, who has read this transla 
tion, and has judged its publication useful 
to the faithful, do permit the Life of St. 
Benedict of Sanfratello to be given for 
publication. 

CHOLLETON, Vicar- General. 

LYONS, January 30, 1835, 



IO 




LIFE OF 

ST. BENEDICT OF SANFRATELLO, 

SURNAMED THE NEGRO. 




CHAPTER L 

COUNTRY, PARENTS, AND BIRTH OF ST. BENEDICT. 

UR Saint was born at Sanfratello, in 
Sicily, on the northern coast near the 
Tyrrhene Sea, which place was for 
merly known under the name of Chateau 
de St. Philadelphia. We think this name 
dates back to the translation into that place 
of the relics of three holy martyrs, Alpheus, 
Philadelphia and Cirinus. By an idio 
matic change, the name St. Philadelphia 

II 



1 2 Life of St. (Benedict. 

has become Sanfratello. Christopher, our 
Saint s father, and Diana, his mother, were 
descended from negro slaves; they were 
themselves negroes and born at Sanfratello; 
both were Christians, adorned with evan 
gelical virtues. According to the Chronicle 
of the Reformed Friars Minor, the mother 
was free; this benefit she doubtless owed 
to the Chevalier de Lanca, whose slave she 
had been. After her marriage with Chris 
topher, she took with him the name of 
Manasseri, their master, according to the 
custom of the slaves. Vincent Manasseri, 
who was rich, entrusted to Christopher the 
cultivation of his fields and the care of his 
flocks, and the slave s fidelity found its 
recompense in the affection and confidence 
of his grateful master. 

Although Christopher was endowed with 
many good qualities, he excelled in love of 
the poor; following the example of the 



Country, (Parents, jnd (Birth. 13 

saints, he never refused alms to any one, 
and he gave so much the more generously, 
as he attached to the merit of charity the 
benediction which our Lord deigned to 
shed on the goods confided to his care. 
But his companions, animated by a contrary 
spirit, not content with turning his alms to 
ridicule, and blaming them as more injuri 
ous than advantageous to Manasseri s inter 
ests, denounced Christopher as a waster of 
the goods he administered. That prudence 
which examines accusations by the light of 
judgment and wisdom is very rarely found 
in the world. The jealousy of the accusers 
seemed to their master a well-founded zeal; 
and he deprived the slave of his office of 
superintendent But far from increasing 
his revenues by this means, as he had 
hoped, he found them diminish ng day by 
day; his flocks decreased, his out-houses 
became in a ruinous condition; the pro- 



14 Life of St. (Benedict. 

ducts of his fields, formerly so plentiful, 
grew visibly less, and his revenues far 
below what they had formerly been. It is 
but just to say that Manasseri was not one 
of those, who, disdaining to occupy them 
selves with the primary cause of events, 
attribute them always to secondary causes. 
Being a true disciple of the Gospel, he 
recognized his error, reinstated Christopher 
in his office, and, consequently, in the posi 
tion of giving his alms; from that time 
abundance and the blessing of Heaven 
returned to him. 

Among other moral virtues, our Saint s 
parents possessed chastity in an eminent 
degree; this virtue, always admirable, is 
much more so in persons of their class. 
To their love of purity was joined a repug 
nance to having children in their state of 
servitude; hence, by mutual consent, they 
lived separate. Their master hearing this. 



Country, (Parents, and (Birth. 15 

and being assured of it by themselves, 
wished to remove one of the causes, and 
promised that he would declare free the 
first fruit of their marriage. Influenced by 
this promise, the pious couple consented to 
live together. God blessed their resolu 
tion; Diana conceived; and, during the 
time of her pregnancy, she incessantly 
recommended her child to God and also to 
the Blessed Virgin, to whom she, as well 
as her husband, had a great devotion. 

According to the opinion of several 
writers, the child was born in 1524; he 
was baptized in the Church of Sanfratello, 
and received the name of Benedict. Man- 
asseri gave him for god-father William 
Pontremoli, one of his relations, and the 
child being black, like his parents, he 
became commonly called by the name of 
Benedict the Negro. But under this dark 
exterior he possessed gifts which won him 



1 6 Life of St. (Benedict. 

everybody s love, so that, observing his 
happy natural disposition, every one applied 
to him the words of the Spouse of the Can 
ticles: I am black, but beautiful. Manasseri 
kept his promise, and immediately declared 
the child free ; happy presage of that child s 
future consecration to God alone, who had 
chosen him for Himself, and had destined 
him solely for His service* 





CHAPTER IL 

ST. BENEDICT S CHILDHOOD. 

BEAUTIFUL flower exposed to the 
rays of a sweet and beneficent light, 
and carefully cultivated, develops its 
charms from day to day, and sheds around 
it a delicious perfume ; thus it was with the 
youthful Benedict. We may easily under 
stand what was his education, in his tender- 
est years, if we consider the piety of his 
parents, and even of their master, and the 
assiduous care they bestowed on this child 
of benediction. His beautiful soul, the 
object of the special predilection of the 
Most High, cultivated by holy instructions 
and virtuous examples, developed itself day 

by day, and formed itself upon the model 
a* 



1 8 Life of St. (Benedict. 

of his father and mother, and according to 
the heart of God. The devotion, recol 
lected deportment, and obedience of the 
little negro excited general admiration; 
again we are told that he, from his earliest 
years, advanced in the spiritual life, and 
that he was regarded as one already 
enlightened in the ways of God, and emi 
nently virtuous. 

The inhabitants of Sanfratello beheld with 
emotion, the good Christopher and his 
pious wife conducting their child regularly 
to the foot of the Holy Virgin s altar, where 
he, with as much fervor as innocence, 
offered himself and the homage of his lib 
erty, and supplicated the Queen of Angels 
not to permit him to fall into the horrible 
slavery of the demon. Benedict, with as 
much ardor as humility, united in the 
prayers of his parents; with his whole heart 
be repeated the tender aspirations sug- 



(Benedict s Childhood. 19 

gested by his mother. At this touching 
spectacle, Manasseri could not restrain his 
tears, remembering that he had contributed 
to this work from which God, it seemed, 
would draw so much glory. Manasseri was 
not the only admirer of Benedict ; whoever 
attentively regarded his gravity and con 
duct, conceived the hope that, ia him, the 
heavenly city should have one more inhabi 
tant. The result showed that they were 
not deceived. 

Our Saint, like .nother Tobias, gave, 
even in his tenderest years, no sign of 
childishness or levity; like his virtuous 
parents, he advanced with joy and courage, 
in the evangelical way; like them, he 
practised fasts and mortifications, and 
frequently approached the sacraments; 
consequently, the purity of his morals con 
demned libertines and covered them with 
confusion, while it animated the good and 



2O Life of Si. (Benedict. 

fervent. Neither public praises nor felicita 
tions, nor the caresses of Manasseri himself, 
could inspire the holy youth with thoughts 
of vanity. Another in his place, would have 
wished to profit by the general esteem, and, 
above all, by the benevolence of the wealthy 
master, who had given him his liberty, to 
improve his condition. This would have 
been only natural, for we daily see shep 
herds, workmen, and servants setting great 
value OP )eing the first, and having power 
over others ; but the young Benedict, free 
from ambition, kept his flocks, contented 
himself with frugal fare, employed his hours 
of rest in pious exercises, and had no other 
guides but the law of God and the wishes 
of his parents. What does greater honor 
to the young negro is, that, with his ready 
mind and lively imagination, he thought so 
little of advancing himself, and engaging in 
a less painful state, that, having attained 



(Benedict s Childhood. 21 

his eighteenth year, and being possessed of 
the necessary strength and vigor for the 
most laborious occupations of a farmer, he 
esteemed himself happy in that condition. 
Being master of his own wages, he pur 
chased a pair of oxen, and engaged in 
agriculture ; thus he became, in the super 
natural order, another protector of that 
honorable and useful profession. Worthy 
rival of St. Isidore in his birth, he imitated 
him, also, by glorifying God in the same 
condition. If the holy Spaniard, while guid 
ing the plough in the fields watered by the 
Tagus, always kept his heart elevated to 
God, our saintly Sicilian, while cultivating 
the lands of Valdemone, ceased not to bless 
the all-powerful hand which draws man s 
food from nothingness, and preserves, in a 
manner so constant and admirable, the 
fruits of the earth, for the benefit of his 
creatures. Hence, when the rain moist- 



22 Life of St. ^Benedict. 

ened the earth, when the rays of the sun 
caused the seed to sprout, or when a gentle 
wind dried the furrows of the fields, Bene 
dict always returned thanks to the Author 
of nature. 

In the short intervals of rest, he used to 
raise his eyes towards heaven, and in those 
moments of delight, he appeared to enjoy 
a foretaste of the blessed life ; the peace of 
his soul was reflected on his countenance, 
and amidst his poverty, he found all he 
wished of worldly goods, and possessed in 
a high degree that true happiness which 
worldlings neither know nor desire. The 
hard bread he eat, the wild fruits he found 
in the fields, were more savory to him than 
would have been the delicious viands that 
loaded the sumptuous tables of Lucullus 
and Vetellius, 





CHAPTER IIL 

ST. BENEDICT IN THE HEJLMITAG1. 

T the time of which we speak, Father 
Jerome Lanza, originally of St. Mark s, 
occupied, with several of his brethren, 
the hermitage of St. Dominic, a short dis 
tance from Sanfratello. This father was a 
knight allied on the maternal side to Cardi 
nal Rebiba, a Sicilian. With the consent of 
his wife, he had retired into a monastery, 
had sold his rich patrimony, and abandoning 
his country, had finally established himself 
in the hermitage, where he imitated the an 
gelic life of the ancient solitaries of Egypt. 
One day, as he was walking in the country, 
he cast his eyes upon some reapers who were 
resting, and amusing themselves, in the 

23 



24 Life of St. (Benedict. 

meantime, at Benedict s expense ; they were 
even indecently mocking him. Lanza, hav 
ing for a few moments attentively regarded 
the negro, who was then about twenty- 
one years old, discovered under that black 
exterior a soul of extraordinary purity, and 
said to the reapers: "You are ridiculing 
this poor workman, but in a few years you 
will hear something of him." Those uncul 
tivated laborers listened with astonishment 
to the words of such a venerable personage ; 
those words remained deeply engraven on 
Benedict s heart, although he did not com 
prehend their meaning : not so his master, 
who understood it perfectly, especially when 
the good hermit added to him : " I recom 
mend the young Benedict to you, for he will 
first come to live with us, and afterwards 
become a religious." 

Some time later, Lanza, meeting Bene 
dict in the fields, said to him: "Benedict; 



St. (Benedict in the Hermitage 25 

what are you doing there ? Sell your oxen 
and come to my hermitage." The young 
man obeyed, and although he was fond of 
his little team, which he had purchased at 
the price of his sweat, he heard the hermit s 
voice as that of Jesus Christ, sojd his oxen, 
and gave the price to the poor. Then he 
asked his parents for the required permis 
sion, which they gave with their benediction, 
weeping, meanwhile, with joy and emotion, 
and Benedict set out immediately for St. 
Dominic s hermitage ; there, consumed with 
zeal, he placed himself under the guidance 
of his master. Thus Benedict gave an 
earnest of his future sanctity by his prompt 
obedience and ready correspondence to 
grace. 

Scarcely had the good hermits beheld 

Benedict at the feet of Father Jerome, ere 

they conceived the most happy hopes of 

him. The Holy See had permitted them 

a 



26 Life of St. Benedict. 

to profess the rule of St Francis, and add 
thereto a fourth vow of perpetual Lenten 
abstinence, and three days fast every week. 
Hence they had obtained the faculty of 
receiving novices, giving them the habit, 
and admitting them to profession, after a 
year s novitiate. Thus commenced that 
new and rigorous institute. Certainly, 
those rules were calculated to lead them 
to an eminent perfection; everything in 
them was conformable to the most austere 
penitence; their food was confined to hard 
and coarse bread, begged in the country; 
sometimes they added thereto a few herbs 
and vegetables badly prepared ; they drank 
only water; their cells were small, badly 
built, and incommodious; their clothing 
was suited to the poverty they professed, 
and was insufficient to preserve them from 
the inclemency of the weather ; they spent 
the greater part of the day and night in 



St. (Benedict in the Hermitage. 27 

prayer ; they enjoyed no agreeable society, 
and to all this, they added manual labor. 
A life so austere, rendered them objects 
of holy astonishment to the inhabitants. 

The novice Benedict, although among 
the last, was the first to attain the end. 
He learned from each of his brethren les 
sons of sublime virtue, and like a river, 
which in its course receives one brook, 
then another, until, enriched by so many 
streams, it overflows its banks and ferti 
lizes the fields, he surpassed all his com 
panions in solitude ; they respected him as 
an angel on account of his truly angelic 
virtues ; thus he became their chief and 
their model. Even this extraordinary kind 
of life could not satisfy his exalted views, 
and his inexpressible ardor for acquiring 
those heavenly treasures inaccessible to 
moths and thieves. In his laudable ambi 
tion, he ran in spirit over the deserts of 



28 Life of St. (Benedict. 

Nitria, Syria, and the Thebaide, to learn 
the wonderful penances of the most aus 
tere anchorets. He discovered that St. 
Paul, the first hermit, had worn only a 
tunic of palm leaves, which St. Anthony 
afterwards inherited. Benedict would make 
such a garment for himself, to which he 
added a woollen capouche ; he thought this 
would be a sufficient precaution against 
the rigors of winter, but the intensity of 
the cold obliged him to add another gar 
ment to his dear tunic, which he never cast 
away. 

In virtue of the apostolic brief, our Saint, 
after a year s novitiate, made his profes 
sion in this austere institute. From that 
time, he redoubled his macerations, morti- 
cation of the senses, prayers, and above 
all, his love for God, which wonderfully 
inflamed him. To a profound humility 
and contempt of himself, which he opposed 



Si. (Benedict in the Hermitage. 29 

to his superior s delight and his compan 
ion s praises, he added blind obedience and 
rigorous observance of the rule. His fasts 
became continual, and the ground was his 
only bed. His countenance bore the im 
print of candor, modesty, and penance. He 
frequently chastised his body, even to 
blood. His quest of the hard bread, which, 
with some herbs, constituted his food, 
caused him to acquire abundant treasures 
of patience, by the affronts he received 
from some persons, who regarded the 
voluntary poor of Jesus Christ as vaga 
bonds and idlers, and who were not able to 
distinguish between vice and virtue 

St Anthony, Abbot, and other anchorets 
were accustomed to change their residence, 
as much to go courageously to combat with 
the enemy of their salvation, as to triumph 
the more readily over him by the continual 
oains of long journeys over rough and diffi- 

3* 



30 Life of St. (Benedict. 

cult ways. They also found therein matter 
for sacrifice, by leaving their country and 
renouncing the conveniences they had 
acquired even in their solitudes. In imita 
tion of this example, St. Benedict and his 
companions, under the conduct of Father 
Jerome Lanza, their superior, quitted the 
Hermitage of St. Dominic in the province 
of Val Demone, and passing into that of 
Val di Mazzara, traversed Sicily from north 
to south, since the river which bears the 
name of Sanfratello discharges its waters 
into the Tyrrhene Sea, and the rivers of 
Platano and Rifesio, near which our hermits 
arrived, flows into the African Sea. Our 
solitaries took up their abode in a hermit 
age near Cattolica, where they lived for 
eight years, as our Saint himself told his 
friend, John Dominic Rubbiano. Among 
other inconveniences presented by this soli 
tude, the roads were almost impassable, 



Si. (Benedict in the Hermitage. 31 

when they wished to go in quest of neces 
sary nourishment for their bodies, enfeebled 
by fasting, or to walk or take some recrea 
tion. Father Jerome and his religious were 
laymen ; in this they imitated those ancient 
solitaries, who, before the year 385, in 
which Pope Siricus sat in the Chair of St 
Peter, were not ecclesiastics, although they 
were superiors and abbots. In their new 
retreat, the hermits were deprived of the 
advantages they had enjoyed in their first 
desert, which took its name from the Church 
of St. Dominic, near which it was situated. 

After eight years, those servants of God, 
returned from the southern coast to that 
of the Tyrrhene Sea, but at great distance 
from the place in which they had first dwelt 
This hermitage, twenty-six leagues from 
Sanfratello, was called Mancusa in Parte- 
nica, near Carini, five leagues from Palermo. 
Thither our Saint retired with his brethren, 



32 Life of St. (Benedict. 

into caves that had been inhabited by wild 
beasts, to apply themselves to prayer, and 
conceal, at the same time, their long vigils, 
their fasts and penances, not less severe 
than continual. But the shadows of night 
were dissipated and gave place to the 
aurora. It was said that the famished 
wolves, which are very numerous in that 
desert, respected the negro s grotto, al 
though it was in the most exposed place; 
the people of Carini began to speak of him 
with veneration as of a saint Drawn by 
confidence in his merits, they began to visit 
his retreat and implore his succor in their 
maladies. God, who wished to be known 
in His servant, blessed the people s faith 
by operating a thousand cures, and bestow 
ing many graces. The sanctity of our saint 
began to shine abroad. Once, when, 
through obedience, he went to Carini, he 
met a poor woman long afflicted with 



(Benedict in the Hermitage. 33 

cancer in the breast, which all human reme 
dies had failed to cure. Knowing Bene 
dict s virtue, she said: "O servant of God, 
in thy charity, make the sign of the cross 
on my disease, which is incurable." Com 
passion did violence to our Saint s humility; 
he elevated his mind and heart to heaven, 
made the sign of the cross, as the sick 
woman had requested, and she was healed. 
The fame of this miracle recalled other 
graces obtained by the prayers of Brother 
Benedict; the whole country resounded 
with his name, and the concourse to the 
grotto increased so much, that the prayers 
and retirement of the good hermits were 
interrupted. Hence, after having fulfilled 
the obligations of patience and charity in 
regard to the inhabitants of Carini, the her 
mits, seeing that they abused it, judged 
proper, in concert with their superior, to 
abandon that spot, and seek elsewhere that 



34 



Life of St. (Benedict. 



cherished solitude which was the basis of 
their institute. The choice of a new her 
mitage was speedily made, on account of 
the proximity of Mount Pellegrino, which 
seemed to invite our solitaries to conceal, 
in its wild thickets, the virtues and austere 
penances by which those servants of God 
adorned their souls, and rendered them 
more agreeable to their Divine Master. 






CHAPTER IV. 

ST. BENEDICT ON MOUNT PELLEGRIMO. 

BOUT a league from the celebrated city 
of Palermo, rises, majestically, Mount 
Pellegrino, formerly known under the 
name of Ereta or Erta. At the foot of the 
mountain there is excellent water, the 
medicinal virtues of which are attributed to 
the mines through which it flows. But 
what renders it most distinguished is that 
there is the tomb of St. Rosalia; this fact 
was not known at the time of which we 
speak ; it was discovered one hundred years 
after the birth of our Saint, on the I5th of 
July, 1624, while the pestilence was raging 
in Palermo. Its devastations ceased through 
the invocation of the Saint The people of 

35 



36 Life of St. ^Benedict. 

Palermo, in gratitude, erected a statue of 
St. Rosalia on the summit of the mountain 
facing the sea; this statue is so immense 
that the sailors can perceive it from the sea, 
and they salute it as that of their patroness. 
In the time of our Saint, it was only known 
by tradition where the holy virgin had 
retired, and in particular, the grotto in 
which she had dwelt; all Sicily held this 
sanctuary in veneration. According to the 
Roman Martyrology, Saint Rosalia was 
descended from Charlemagne; she lived 
towards the end of the twelfth century, in 
solitude, on Mount Pellegrino, hiding her 
virtues and penance from the eyes of the 
world. Our Saint and his companions fol 
lowed their Superior along this venerated 
mountain, and stopped on a plain covered 
with shrubs, which formed a thicket, directly 
opposite St. Rosalia s grotto, which was 
then uninhabitable and entirely closed. The 



. (Benedict on Mi Pellegrino. 37 

holy hermits built for themselves, on a rock 
near the holy grotto, little cells like those 
of the first solitaries of Egypt They were 
very anxious to have also a small chapel for 
divine service,* such as the disciples of 
Pachomius and Hilarion had, but whence 
were to come the means? From Divine 
Providence, which, watching over those 
poor ones of Jesus Christ, wished to realize 
their just desires. The Duke of Medina- 
Caeli, then Viceroy of Sicily, and his pious 
consort, won by the sanctity of those good 
hermits, and especially by the well-estab 
lished reputation of Brother Benedict s vir 
tues, caused a little chapel to be erected at 
their expense, contiguous to the venerated 
grotto, in which they placed a picture of 
Saint Rosalia, that the solitaries might con 
template the image of their holy patroness. 
They then caused little separate cells to be 
constructed all around the chapel, for the 

4 



38 Life of St. Benedict. 

servants of God. The ruins of these are 
still to be seen; they show the cell of 
Father Lanza and that of our Saint, which 
are on the western side of the hill, opposite 
the grotto of the holy penitent. In confer 
ences with his Superior and brethren, Bene 
dict learned that the Apostle St. Paul, being 
at the house of Aquila and Priscilla, made 
tents for the soldiers; whence he says in 
the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians : 
Neither did we eat any man s bread for 
nothing^ but in labor and in toil we worked 
night and day, lest we should be chargeable to 
any of you. He also learned that we read 
in St. Epiphanius that the monks were like 
bees ; they put their hand to the wax, and 
their mouth to the honey, by singing the 
praises of God ; that St. Jerome wrote to 
the monk Rusticus : " In the monasteries of 
Egypt they have the laudable custom of 
subsisting only bv the fruits of their labor, 



Si. (Benedict on Mt. (Pellegrino. 39 

not so much because of their want of 
resources, as for the salvation of their souls, 
for fear of giving entrance to bad thoughts ; 
and to escape idleness, that formidable 
enemy so much detested by the Fathers of 
the Church, and which the very pagans held 
in horror." Also that St. Chrysostom says, 
in the twenty-ninth homily on St Matthew: 
" Youth which has leisure to satisfy its curi 
osity in games and festivities, is accustomed 
to rebel, and becomes more ferocious than 
the beasts ;" and finally, that St Bernard 
says, in the Second book of Considerations : 
" One cannot be too much on one s guard 
against idleness ; we must fly from it as being 
the source of vanity and the tomb of virtues? 
Penetrated with these holy maxims, our 
Saint, after the example of his Seraphic 
Father, divided his time between interior 
exercises of piety and manual labor. Like 
the rest of his brethren, he made baskets 



4O Life of St. (Benedict. 

and brooms, without ever relenting from his 
ardor for prayer, passing, like the Apostle, 
from exterior occupations to recollection, 
and the most perfect exercises of the spirit 
and the heart. 

Our Lord having called to himself Father 
Jerome Lanza, the Superior of those holy 
solitaries, our Saint was immediately elected 
in his place, with as much satisfaction to the 
community as pain to Benedict s humility. 
The prudence of his government was pro 
portionate to the eminence of his virtue. 
He gave the habit to a man named Gar- 
gano, originally of Paula in Calabria, who 
took the name of Brother Francis ; he was 
a man of pure morals and solid virtue. 
The new Superior spent some time with 
him, in the convent of Diana, in Marinco 
near Montreal, and then returned to his 
dear solitude at Mount Pellegrino. There 
they dwelt until Pope Julius III, in 1550, the 



. (Benedict on Mt. (Pellegrino. 41 

first year of his pontificate, desired them to 
leave their particular cells, to live together 
in a monastery that had been built for them 
near the church, by some pious souls ; of 
this monastery some vestiges still remain. 
Things remained in this condition under 
the pontificates of Marcellus II and Paul IV. 
Pius IV, being seated on the chair of St 
Peter in 1559, was informed of the austeri 
ties practised by those hermits; he dis 
pensed them from the fourth vow of per 
petual Lenten abstinence and then of the 
three days weekly fast. Afterwards think 
ing, perhaps, that the waters, by prolonging 
their course, are sometimes troubled, he 
ordered that each of those solitaries might 
accomplish his vows in any convent he 
should choose. The first cause of Pius IV s 
wish is to be attributed to the will of the 
Almighty, who wished to draw Benedict s 
virtue forth from obscurity, to place it on a 

4* 



42 Life of St. (Benedict. 

candlestick, that it might shine over all the 
world. Our Saint knew not, at first, which 
of the Franciscan orders to choose. His 
first idea was to enter among the order of 
the Capuchins, which he thought resembled 
most his manner of life; but being on his 
knees in the metropolitan church of Palermo, 
before the altar of the Blessed Virgin s 
chapel, he prayed for light from God and 
the prompt succor of his most holy Mother. 
He then felt himself inspired to enter the 
order of the reformed Minor Observantins. 
Through motives of prudence, and for fear 
of being deceived, or yielding, perhaps, to 
human complaisance and self-satisfaction by 
being among the first members of that 
laudable reform, he resisted the first and 
second inspirations of his holy protectress. 
Finally, as he persevered in prayer for the 
success of an affair on which depended his 
eternal salvation, he felt himself inspired, 



St. (Benedict on Mt. (Pellegrino. 43 

for the third time, and having no longer 
any doubt, he returned thanks to the Holy 
Spirit, the source of light, and to his divine 
Mother; then he arose, full of courage, and 
going to the convent of the reformed Minors 
in Palermo, he asked for the Father Guar 
dian, and cast himself at his feet 




CHAPTER V. 




ENTERS THE ORDER OP THE REFORMED MINOR OBSE*. 

VANTINS. 

MAN of such extraordinary virtue, 
whose sanctity, confirmed by prodi 
gies, was celebrated throughout Sicily, 
could not but be received with as much 
veneration as joy, when he presented him 
self at the convent of St. Mary of Jesus, 
near Palermo, and begged to be admitted 
to the habit Benedict s arrival seemed to 
those holy religious a striking proof of the 
divine protection over their new-born 
reform, since the Lord sent them at the 
same time, one of his most beloved ser 
vants, and a man long skilled in the diffi 
cult paths of retreat and penance. Hence 

44 



(Reformed Minor Observantins. 45 

the religious joyfully hastened to greet 
Benedict, and Father Archangel of Scicli, 
then Guardian, embraced him. This good 
Superior and his community recognized the 
finger of God and His paternal providence, 
in the entrance of that hermit, already well 
known to inmates of the convent 

Our Saint brought with him Brother 
Francis of Calabria, to whom, while guar 
dian of the hermits, he had given the habit 
on Mount Pellegrino. Both were admitted 
to the new habit, without again taking vows, 
because, in virtue of the authorization of the 
Holy See, those they had made in the her 
mitage, were valid and sufficient ; they had, 
then, only to submit to their new superiors. 
Some days after Benedict had been invested 
with the habit, he was sent, without further 
novitiate, to the convent of St Anne- 
Julienne, where he passed three years in 
celestial delights, because he there found 



46 L>ife of St. (Benedict. 

that solitude so dear to his heart. There, 
without hindrance, he gave himself up to 
the contemplation of eternal happiness, and 
the numberless benefits that God bestows 
upon men. Everything in that desert re 
minded him of the Divine Omnipotence ; 
the plants, herbs, flowers, the beautiful 
jasper that abounded in the neighboring 
mountains, the precious agate which was 
dug up near the convent, and which has 
been thus called, because the first was 
found on the borders of the river Achates. 
After three years, Benedict was recalled 
to the convent of St. Mary of Jesus, in 
Palermo, where he spent the rest of his 
life; for the community was very careful 
not to lose so good a model. Benedict 
there practised virtues and corporal austeri 
ties, as rigorously as he had done in his 
hermitage. Always full of the love of holy 
poverty, he put on over his tunic of palm- 



(Reformed Minor Observanttns. 47 

leaves, which he always wore, the coarsest 
and most threadbare habit, made of that 
wool called by the Sicilians Arbaxo, and he 
never changed this garment except by his 
Superior s order. He went barefoot, as he 
had done in his desert, however severe the 
cold might be. He called his cell his 
palace; its furniture consisted in a coarse 
coverlet spread on a board, which served 
him for a bed, a few pictures of his patron 
saints, and a cross drawn on the wall with 
charcoal. 

This extreme poverty, which Benedict 
loved so ardently, and kept so faithfully 
from his entrance into religion, being the 
firm support of virtues, and the best remedy 
for the ordinary defects of our corrupt 
nature, reigned sovereignly in his heart 
After the example of his seraphic Father, 
he wished neither to possess nor appropri 
ate the least thtog, and he continually urged 



48 Life of St. 

his brethren, both by word and example, to 
the practice of this beautiful virtue. So 
strict was he on this point, that he feared 
he would fail in the perfection of religious 
poverty, if he made use of the condiments 
served in the refectory, to stimulate the 
appetite. 

But while he so heroically practised 
universal detachment, the Lord showed by 
evident proofs, how agreeable it was to 
Him. St. Benedict was going one day from 
St. Anne-Julienne to Palermo with a brother 
clerk named Anthony of ConigHone. When 
they arrived at St. Agatha, the clerk, who 
was fasting and much fatigued by the length 
of the journey, declared that it was impossi 
ble for him to proceed further. Through 
love of poverty, our Saint had not brought 
any provisions with him, and there was no 
opportunity of getting any where they were. 
Benedict then encouraged his companion 



(Reformed Minor Observantins. 49 

to make a few steps more, and exhorted 
him to have confidence in our Heavenly 
Father, who feeds the very insects. He 
had scarcely finished speaking, when a 
handsome young man presented himself 
before them ; he seemed to know the wants 
of the two religious, offered them a loaf of 
warm bread, and disappeared. The clerk, 
overwhelmed with astonishment, tasted the 
miraculous bread; a little sufficed to restore 
his strength, and he carried the rest to the 
convent at Palermo, and distributed it 
among the religious, who, informed of the 
prodigy, carefully preserved those precious 
fragments for a better occasion. 

The same thing happened to our Saint 
when travelling with three religious of his 
order. In the midst of the journey, becom 
ing fatigued and exhausted, they complained 
of having nothing to refresh themselves, 
but our hero of poverty unhesitatingly 



5o Life of St. (Benedict. 

assured them that Divine Providence would 
provide. At that moment a traveller gave 
them bread and wine without having been 
asked for it, and while the religious were 
refreshing themselves, he conversed with 
Benedict, who knew him perfectly. The 
three religious having eaten and drunk 
sufficient, returned the remainder to their 
benefactor; the bottle was full, and the loaf 
entire, as if they had never been touched ! 
All were astonished at this, except the good 
negro. These prodigies increased his repu 
tation for sanctity, as well as the respect 
for the poverty of the reformed Minors. 

A similar occurrence took place in a 
journey which the Saint made from Palermo 
to Girgenti, with three religious, who were 
almost dead with hunger and fatigue. Vito 
Polizzi, an inhabitant of Palermo, was return 
ing thither from Girgenti, and seeing their 
sad condition, he alighted from his horse, 



(Reformed Minor Obs&rvantins. 51 

and gave them a package of biscuits and 
a bottle of wine. The religious accepted a 
succor which came so opportunely, and tfiey 
made such good use of the provision, that 
scarcely anything remained. They thanked 
the charitable cavalier, who, when he arrived 
at the barony of Fontaine, again alighted 
from his horse to partake of what had been 
left by the religious. To his great surprise, 
he found the packet full of biscuits and 
the bottle replenished with wine. Amazed 
at the sight of this miraculous multiplica 
tion, he published it everywhere, and swore 
to it, at the process instituted at Palermo 
in 1595, on the virtues and miracles of our 
Saint 

The wonder we are about to relate, will 
prove, still more clearly, St. Benedict s love 
for poverty, and his zeal for its perfect 
observance. We may also see by it, how 
God loves the voluntary poor, whom the 



52 Life of St. (Benedict. 

incredulous affect to despise and insult. 
The Saint, while watching over the lowest 
employments of the convent, perceived that 
the religious clerks, in washing the dishes, 
as usual, after dinner, threw in the water 
the remnants of bread and other food, 
which the sobriety of the religious had 
made them leave in the refectory. At this 
sight, Benedict s zeal for poverty was in 
flamed; he approached the clerks and said: 
"My brothers, for charity s sake, do not 
throw away those fragments. Let us give 
them to the poor, for it is the blood of those 
who have given them to us for the love of 
God." Those young men would not listen 
to him ; they even laughed at him, treating 
what he had said as the tiresome scrupu 
losity of an ignorant lay-brother. The 
Saint then took up one of those little 
brushes used for cleaning the vessels, and 
pressing it in his right hand, said ; " Look, 



(Reformed Minor Observantins. 53 

children;" at the same moment, blood 
flowed abundantly from the brush under 
his pressure, and all were penetrated with 
terror at the sight of such a prodigy. The 
clerics, much confused, repented of and 
corrected their fault; the news of the 
prodigy was spread abroad, and made a 
profound impression on the minds of those 
who heard it After the death of our hero, 
the Apostolic Inquisitor, coming from Spain 
to Sicily, caused a picture of the memora 
ble occurrence to be painted. This may 
still be seen in Portugal in a chapel erected 
by the negroes in that kingdom, in honor 
of blessed Benedict, and also in other 
places* Several witnesses, heard at Rome 
during the process of his Canonization in 
1715, averred that, in America, they had 
often seen litde pictures representing this 
marvellous occurrence. 

To his heroic love of poverty, our Saint 
$ 



54 Life of St. (Benedict. 

joined an angelic chastity, which he pre 
served unspotted from his cradle to his 
entrance into religion, and from his religious 
vocation until his death. For this end, he 
employed the most severe penances. He 
was too well aware of the fragility of the 
vessel in which is preserved our baptismal 
innocence, to neglect the care of such a 
precious treasure ; he fortified his spirit by 
enfeebling the flesh; he preserved it from 
every stain by continual austerities; he 
watched rigorously over his senses, princi 
pally over his eyes, thinking, with reason, 
that it is by them that sin and corruption 
penetrate most surely into our souls. 
Hence, when he went to meet in his con 
vent those who desired to speak to him, or 
when he begged in Pajermo, he never fixed 
his eyes on persons of the other sex, not 
even the most modest. The Duchess 
Louise di Montalto, who had often held 



(Reformed Minor Observantins. 55 

long conferences with him, for the strength 
and consolation of her soul, could never 
boast of having seen the color of his eyes. 
This singular modesty, which he showed to 
all in general, united to a sincere charity 
which made him always ready to render a 
service, far from repelling others, or making 
him appear rude, won him everybody s 
affection and respect 

He was not less reserved in his words 
than in his looks. Far from allowing him 
self to say anything improper, he was care 
ful to avoid the least raillery, the slightest 
levity. A tongue wholly consecrated to 
the honor of God, and the good of the 
neighbor, could be employed only for those 
two ends, and not in idle words. The ser 
vant of God was equally careful in the 
custody of his ears, and we shall find him 
speaking against the abuse of the sense of 
smell. When people wished, according to 



56 Life of St. (Benedict,. 

the custom of the country, to kiss his hand, 
he would adroitly withdraw it, and humbly 
present his habit, to avoid the dangers of 
the touch. We have already seen his mor 
tification in his food. This purity, so care 
fully guarded, won him singular homage 
from the city of Palermo, which, when tak 
ing him for its protector, gave him in its 
public acts, the glorious title of Virgin; he 
is named therein: temple of the Holy Spirit 
and of virginity; yet more, he is repre 
sented in an old picture in the sacristy of 
his convent, with a lily in his hand, an 
emblem reserved to the heroes of chastity. 
His obedience was so universal, that he 
sought the will of his Superior, even in the 
least things. A sign was as much to him 
as an express command, and was sufficient 
to make him leave even prayer, which was, 
nevertheless, his delight It would be 
impossible to know the number of those 



Reformed, Minor Observantins. 57 

who came to him to implore favors, coun 
sels, or consolation. His superiors decided 
that he should be called by three strokes 
of the bell; those sounds, which, to him, 
were the voice of obedience, were so fre 
quent that scarcely would he have reached 
his cell, or gone to his employment after 
having dismissed a visitor at the convent 
door, when he would be called again; yet, 
without the least dissatisfaction, he would 
return to the door, through obedience. 

This religious virtue was crowned by a 
singular prodigy. Don Laurence Galletti, 
Count of Gagliardi, fell so dangerously ill 
at Palermo, that the doctors were in mo 
mentary expectation of his death. The 
parents hastened to recommend the dying 
man to the prayers of the servant of God, 
and engaged his superiors to command 
him to pray for him. Benedict, ever ready 
to obey, went to the church, and, prostrate 



58 Life of St. (Benedict. 

before the altar of the blessed Virgin, 
begged her to intercede for the sick man s 
cure. As he prayed, he beheld the Mother 
of God coming forth from her niche, and, 
at the same time, a tomb open near the 
altar, while he heard Mary utter the follow 
ing words: Laurence Galletti dead ahd 
risen again. After thanking the Mother 
of mercy, Benedict returned to the Guar 
dian, and related his vision. The sick 
man s parents, hearing it, returned home 
full of joy, where they found their son per 
fectly cured. Every voice attributed this 
miracle to our saint s obedience. 





CHAPTER VL 

BROTHER BENEDICT IS EMPLOYED IN THE KITCHEN OF THB 

CONVENT. 

HE lowest and most painful employ 
ments were always Benedict s choice. 
Obedience imposed on him that of 
cook. Certainly there could be found no 
one better suited to this function, or more 
proper for the interest of the house, since 
he brought to it, not only that active charity 
which animated all his actions, but also the 
power of obtaining from God the succors 
rendered necessary by religious poverty, 
and even prodigies, when occasion required. 
Hence we are not surprised to find him 
twenty-seven years in this employment, 
from which he wa? drawn at intervals, only 
to fill the most important places. 

59 



60 Life of St. 

That kitchen was sanctified by the prayers 
of Benedict, and the favors of God, We 
read in the acts of his canonization, that one 
day, the holy cook made the soup out of salt 
pork or bacon, because the meat had not 
come in time; when it was brought, Bene 
dict put it on the fire immediately. A few 
moments later, some religious, obliged to 
go to Palermo, asked Brother Benedict for 
some meat. The Saint replied that it had 
not been on the fire longer than one might 
be in saying the Miserere, but that they 
might look at it The religious, knowing 
the cook s virtue, went boldly to the hearth, 
and, to their great astonishment, found the 
meat thoroughly cooked 

On one occasion, when the Provincial 
Chapter was being held in that convent, 
the number of strange religious greatly 
increased the labor and the amount of Len 
ten provisions needed, as the chapter was 



In the Convent Kitchen. 61 

held in Advent But the snow was falling 
heavily, and not even the ordinary provi 
sions could be obtained. In this extremity, 
Benedict, calling his companion, took with 
him some of the kitchen vessels, filled them 
with water, and retired, as if to sleep. But 
the Saint, full of confidence in Divine Pro 
vidence, spent the whole night in prayer. 
Next morning, when he and his companion 
returned to the kitchen, they found in those 
vessels a quantity of fish sufficient for all 
the religious. 

A still more admirable prodigy took place 
In that kitchen, once on Christmas Day. 
The Inquisitor of the kingdom, Don Diego 
de Ahedo, who was also Archbishop of 
Palermo, wished to be present at the Offices 
and Solemn Mass, celebrated in the house 
of the Deformed Minors, and for his conso 
lation, desired also to dine there, that he 
might taste the cooking of Messire> a sou- 

6 



62 Life of St. ^Benedict. 

briquet given to St. Benedict. Anxious, at 
the same time, to regale the poor commu 
nity, and to be no charge to it, he sent to 
the kitchen a sufficient quantity of provi 
sions, which the cook was to prepare. The 
day was far advanced, and High Mass had 
already been commenced, yet though they 
sought Benedict all over the convent, to 
urge him to hasten with the dinner, they 
could not find him. The Father- Vicar, Dom 
Ambrose de Polichi, complained of this so 
much the more bitterly, as he found there 
was not even any fire in the kitchen. The 
Gospel of the Mass had just been sung, 
when the thurifer, while moving the censer, 
felt a little resistance at one side; he turned 
and beheld Benedict kneeling behind a cur 
tain, which hung from the tribune. 

The clerk shook him, and told him that 
the vicar was looking for him everywhere. 
The saint made a sign r or him to be silent, 



In the Convent Kitchen. 63 

and continued his meditation until the end 
of Mass. Then he arose, took a candle, 
and went to light the fire in the kitchen. 
Father Ambrose, hastening thither, found 
Benedict on his knees and immovable, with 
the light in his hand. The father scolded, 
and the other religious joined in his 
reproaches. Benedict, rising, bade them 
give the signal for dinner and go to the 
refectory, because everything was ready. 
The religious looked at one another; the 
Father Vicar asked how it could be possi 
ble ; Benedict replied that the Lord would 
provide. At that moment, in presence of 
them all, and of the Inquisitor himself, who 
had entered, there appeared two young 
men, clothed in white from head to foot, 
who, rolling up their sleeves, began to pre 
pare the meal. Again the Saint begged 
his brethren to go to the refectory, because 
everything was ready to be served. They 



64 Life of St. (Benedict. 

sat down to table, the dishes were served, 

but what were the viands? Those 

/lands prepared by angelic hands! The 
religious dined, full of surprise at a prodigy 
of which they had been eye-witnesses. 
What a lesson of confidence in God! Our 
Lord showed clearly by this miracle, that 
the confidence of His servants is not the 
arrogance of presumption, and that they are 
faithfully accompanied and assisted by His 
angels, whom the greater number of Chris 
tians honor but slightly, or not at all. 

We have, then, good reason to believe 
that the angels aided Benedict on many 
other occasions, and supplied by their aid 
for human weakness. This must have been 
the case, when they were building a new 
dormitory in the same convent. On that 
occasion, the masons, on account of the 
poverty of the Friars, and in virtue of a 
special permission, went there to work 



In the Convent Kitchen. 65 

gratuitously on holidays, asking only their 
dinner. Once, when they were expecting 
them on an approaching feast, the overseer 
of the work informed Father Peter of Tra- 
pani, then Guardian, that the masons could 
not come on that day. Consequently, no 
provision was made for them. But on the 
morning of the festival, thirty men came to 
work at the dormitory. When the Guar 
dian learned the fact, it was too late to pro 
vide for them, and he went to the kitchen 
in the greatest anxiety. Our Saint, who 
was not the least troubled, seeing the 
Superior s uneasiness, told him to be calm 
and trust to Divine Providence; the Guar 
dian shrugged his shoulders, and went 
away. The dinner hour being arrived, the 
cook repeated that the workmen might go 
to table, adding that the grace of God was 
there in abundance for all. The thirty 
masons dined, and never had they gone 



66 Life of St. (Benedict. 

away better regaled or more satisfied; they 
even left much food after them. In such 
circumstances, the liberality of heaven is 
always to be admired. The religious who 
beheld these marvels, knew, from that time, 
the value of Benedict s confidence in God, 
who aided him so efficaciously in every 
necessity. 

But inasmuch as our Saint was anxious 
to provide for the nourishment of others, 
so much was he neglectful of his own. He 
persevered in his primitive abstinence; he 
would scarcely taste of his portion, and 
gave the larger share to the poor. Obliged 
by his employment to taste the food, he 
took very little, through a motive of morti 
fication. The following instance proves 
how advanced he was in the practice of that 
virtue. Brother William having abstained 
from the first cherries of the season, the 
Saint told him that true abstinence con* 



In the Convent Kitchen. 67 

sisted, not in leaving a thing entirely, but in 
only tasting it, and that by this means one 
deprives one s self of sensible pleasure, and 
mortifies the appetite which has tasted it 
On account of this interior light, he tasted, 
without difficulty, whatever was brought as 
an alms to the refectory, either in testi 
mony of his gratitude, or for the consola 
tion of the donors ; but out of the refectory, 
his abstinence was rigorous. A gentleman 
of Palermo having offered him an early wal 
nut to eat, he refused it, saying that a 
religious should never swerve from the 
common life ; an excellent maxim, which he 
faithfully kept throughout his life. 




CHAPTER VIL 




W. BENEDICT IS MADK GUAEMAH. 

O remarkable were the virtues of 
Brother Benedict, that the reformed 
Minors, although very fervent reli 
gious, could not see among them one more 
proper to govern than he, although he was 
but a lay-brother. When Benedict found 
he had been elected Guardian of the con 
vent in which he was cook, it may be 
imagined what a contest arose in his heart 
between humility and obedience. He 
addressed himself to the Superiors of the 
Observantins in the province of Sicily, and 
full of sadness and humility, he, like another 
Moses on the mountain, exaggerated his 
imperfections and incapacity. He was sin- 
68 



(Benedict is made Guardian. 69 

gularly eloquent in exposing before the 
chapter of the religious, the meanness of 
his birth, his condition as a lay-brother, the 
weakness of his mind, and, finally, his igno 
rance, which was so great that he knew not 
how either to read or write, qualifications 
which he said were indispensable to a 
Superior. He added, that although he had, 
for a short time, governed the hermits of 
Mount Pellegrino, it was by an error, excu 
sable on the part of lay-brothers, whose 
government did not require great capacity. 
Finally, he strongly opposed to his defects, 
the merits of so many religious in the 
monastery, more capable than he. 

But his representations were useless; 
while he was humbling himself as much as 
possible, the religious recalled his virtues, 
his extraordinary reputation, the graces and 
prodigies obtained through his prayers, and 
above all, his well known prudence. They 



70 Life of St. (Benedict. 

knew that no one is more proper to com 
mand than he who knows how to obey, and 
hence they justly concluded that Benedict, 
being a model of obedience, would become 
the model of wise and prudent Superiors. 
They considered that, in a rising reform, in 
which the austerities of the Seraphical 
Father were followed so exactly, no one 
could make them more loved or better 
observed than he who so perfectly prac 
tised them. Consequently, they paid no 
attention to his pleadings. 

The election being maintained, Benedict 
yielded through obedience; he implored 
the help of God, and placed himself at the 
head of the convent, by giving to his infe 
riors the rarest examples of religious vir 
tues. He was always the first in serving 
the sick, in washing the feet of strange 
religious, at the prayers of the community, 
at holy ceremonies, mortifications, arid pub- 



St. (Benedict is made Guardian. 

lie penances. Notwithstanding his numer 
ous occupations, no one could ever arrive 
before him in the church or the choir. The 
sacristan, however diligent he might be, 
always found him there. This good Supe 
rior employed himself in all the labors of 
the house, and in the lowest employments. 
He made his rest and recreation consist 
in helping in the kitchen, washing the 
dishes, drawing water, carrying wood, 
sweeping the house, digging in the garden, 
and begging in the city. The principal 
fruit which his subjects drew from such 
beautiful examples, was a continual encour 
agement to the exact practice of their 
rigorous reform, and particularly of holy 
humility, that virtue so dear to Benedict, 
and so often forgotten by Superiors ; as if, 
in order to govern well, it were necessary 
to affect dignity and show contempt for 
inferiors. 



72 Life of St. (Benedict. 

Our excellent Guardian, humble in his 
demeanor, poor in his whole exterior, ex 
tenuated by penance, bore a sovereign 
respect towards the priests, showed him 
self full of charity to the lay-brothers, and 
employed admirable discretion in directing 
the novices; his patience was unalterable 
towards the inferiors and brothers of the 
house, and was affable towards everybody ; 
hence all respected, loved, and punctually 
obeyed him. No one abused his humility. 
On the contrary, he having on one occasion 
corrected a novice, whom he thought guilty 
of a grave fault, and being afterwards 
assured that he was innocent, or at least 
less guilty than he had supposed, he knelt 
before him and begged his pardon; this 
course, far from drawing on him any con 
tempt, caused him to be the more admired; 
and everybody only esteemed the more the 
good Superior and master. Hence it was 



St. (Benedict is made Guardian. 73 

that that community partook so much of 
the spirit of the Patriarch of Assisium. 
Therein was to be seen neither hatred nor 
coldness; the religious promptly acknow 
ledged their failings, and mutually asked 
and granted pardon. That holy spot was, 
we may say, a mirror most clear and well- 
calculated to reflect the brilliancy of Bene 
dict s virtues, and particularly of his humil- 
llity, since those good religious had elected 
a negro lay-brother as their Superior, so 
far were they strangers to ambition and 
human respect. 

Benedict s humility was revealed not only 
amidst mortifications, penances, and trials ; 
it shone also amidst honors, applause, and 
success. The more God, who exalts the 
humble, wished to glorify him, the more did 
His servant abase himself in his abjection. 
The provincial chapter being held in the 
ancient city of Girgenti, formerly so cele- 
f 



74 Life of St. (Benedict. 

brated, Benedict, in his quality of Guardian, 
was obliged to assist thereat. As soon as 
his arrival became known, the whole city 
was in a tumult of joy. Nothing was 
spoken of but Benedict and his sanctity, 
and at the news of his approach, the clergy 
of the cathedral, accompanied by many of 
the inhabitants, went to meet him. What a 
beautiful spectacle it was, to see the humble 
Benedict surrounded by the most respecta 
ble ecclesiastics, the most distinguished 
inhabitants, and by crowds of people, who 
disputed for the happiness of kissing his 
habit, or, at least, of touching it! The 
more confused and mortified the Saint 
became, the more he vainly sought to fly 
this applause, the more did they cry aloud: 
Behold the Saint. Some recommended 
themselves to his prayers, others wept for 
joy; they never grew weary of contempla 
ting his modesty and humility amidst so 



St. (Benedict is made Guardian. 75 

peaceful and glorious a triumph. The like 
happened at Bivona, where the people s 
joy was so excessive, and the crowd so 
great, that he hid himself, and fled to escape 
such indiscreet honors. 

Pliny the Younger relates that a Spaniard, 
electrified by the reputation of the cele 
brated historian Titus Livius, made a voy 
age from Cadiz to Rome to behold him, and 
after accomplishing his purpose, returned 
home without trying to see anything, al 
though Rome possessed many objects of 
legitimate curiosity. We read that the like 
thing happened to Benedict. A Portuguese 
came from the banks of the Tagus to see 
him and throw himself at his feet; then he 
returned, proud of having beheld the ser 
vant of God and conversed familiarly with 
him, so much was his reputation for sanctity 
spread throughout the west of Europe, and 
so great was the glory given him by our 



76 Life of St. (Benedict. 

Lord, even in this world! But the Most 
High discovered in Benedict s heart a pro 
found contempt for perishable honors, a 
horror of the least sentiment of vanity, and 
a continual abnegation of self before God 
and men. 

This privileged soul found his delight in 
prayer; in it he united himself with God, in 
it he applied himself to heavenly things, 
during all the time he could spare from his 
employment, and the works of piety and 
charity, in which he was constantly en 
gaged. During those precious moments, 
the use of his senses was suspended. Two 
religious, on their return to the convent, 
hastened to his cell to ask blessing, he 
being Guardian, but they received no re 
sponse. They repeated the Benedicite 
several times in a loud voice, but to no pur 
pose. Finally they opened the door, and 
beheld Benedict on his knees in prayer. 



(Benedict is made Guardian. 77 

They went up to him, making a great 
noise, but he heard them not Then the 
religious, who really wished to receive his 
blessing, made so much noise that the Saint, 
returning to himself, and drawn from his 
delightful contemplation, said in a plaintive 
tone: A h! may God forgive you ! God bless 
you! 

Although Benedict s charity for his neigh 
bor was always remarkable, it, nevertheless, 
shone more brilliantly while he was Supe 
rior. Not content with being always the 
first to visit the sick, he also rendered them 
the lowest offices, watched over their health, 
and by holy words encouraged them to 
patience; when they grew worse he would 
spend whole nights with them. He gave 
orders to the porter never to send the poor 
away fasting; they knowing this, failed not 
to profit thereby. One day, several poor 
persons and some Spanish soldiers pre- 

7* 



78 Life of St. (Benedict. 

sented themselves at the gate. Brother 
Vito of Girgenti, then porter, according to 
his orders, distributed all the bread that he 
had. After these had gone, more presented 
themselves. Brother Vito told them he 
had no more bread. They were going 
away, very sad, when the good Guardian 
arrived; he called them back, and asked 
the porter why he had refused to give 
them alms. " Father Guardian/ answered 
Brother Vito, " I have counted the portions, 
and there is scarcely enough for the reli 
gious." "No matter," replied the charita 
ble Superior; "give alms to these poor 
people; God will provide for us." The 
porter obeyed; he distributed ten loaves> 
and when he counted what remained, found 
there was more than enough for the reli 
gious; this was a prodigy of frequent 
occurrence in our Saint s time. 

Prudence no less than charity is essen- 



St. (Benedict is made Guardian. 79 

tial to good government It causes us to 
adopt means most proper to a good end, 
and at the same time, the most conforma 
ble to the love and characters of our fellow- 
beings. Benedict followed this rule most 
exactly. He, on a certain occasion, gave a 
private gentle admonition to a novice, for 
a fault which others imprudently wished to 
have punished publicly; the good result 
proved that the Guardian had chosen the 
better means. He exercised the like pru 
dence in regard of some young religious 
who were accustomed to talk near a large 
window in the dormitory, during the time 
of strict silence. Complaint of this being 
carried to the Superior, he went to that 
place at the time they were accustomed to 
, break silence, and by remaining there a 
long time, led them to perceive their fault 
without his saying a word, and the disorder 
from that time ceased. 




CHAPTER VIIL 

ST. BENEDICT IS ELECTED VICAR AND MASTER OF NOVICES. 

HILE the excellent Guardian rejoiced 
to see the end of his triennial term 
of office drawing nigh, his subjects 
were deeply afflicted thereat He desired 
to have more time for contemplation; and 
the religious, although running the same 
course, felt themselves far from the end, 
and knew of no one who could worthily fill 
the place of Father Benedict, or give so 
much splendor to the rising reform, as had 
been given by the servant of God. We 
have seen that when he left his hermitage to 
enter the convent in Palermo, he embraced 
the reform then in full vigor in that institute, 
but that new reform had great need of the 

help brought to it by our Saint Although 
80 



Elected Vicar and Master. 81 

not the father of that rigorous institute, he 
was certainly its foster-father, which excuses 
the contempt of those who date the rise of 
the reform in that monastery from Bene 
dict s entrance, and call him its father. 

At the end of his term, our Saint was 
elected Vicar, and afterwards Master of the 
clerks and lay-novices. We shall not 
retrace the picture of the virtues which he 
practised, since they were the same as had 
adorned his term of guardianship. Enter 
ing on his new employments, he was already 
full of vigilance, and attentive to guide 
those young men, whether clerks or lay- 
novices, in the narrow and severe path 
traced by the Seraphical Patriarch. It was 
not necessary to urge them by many words 
to advance courageously in penance and 
mortification ; the example of the holy Mas 
ter was sufficient, for, according to St 
Chrysostom, teaching by example is the 



82 Life of St. (Benedict. 

rule of doctrine, that of the voice is the 
science; but the doctrine of example is 
virtue, Now, they saw in our Saint an 
inviolable fidelity to the rule, an exact 
obedience to the slightest wish of the new 
Superior, heroic patience under trial and 
suffering, ardent love for his neighbor, and 
constant readiness to render him the least 
service, a wise temperance which repressed 
every inordinate interior and exterior mo 
tion; rigorous mortification of the senses 
and the rebellious flesh, which he afflicted 
by fasts and bloody disciplines, and humbled 
by frequent consideration of the nothing 
ness of self. Illumined by such a light, the 
young men confided to Benedict s care 
never wandered from the path traced out 
for them. If, through human frailty, some 
seemed to become neglectful, then the voice 
of the Master was heard, and no more \v cvs 
needed to make them return to the right 



Elected Vicar and Master. 83 

way. Benedict was aware of what Isidore 
of Damietta teaches, viz: that the Master 
does not correct his disciples by severity 
or chastisements, but by the ingenious 
address of charity, which must direct good 
education. 

The charity of the holy Master of Novices 
was conformable to what St. Chrysostom, 
in his Twenty-seventh Homily on the Corin 
thians, recommends to masters, when he 
says: "The master s principal function is to 
share from the bottom of his heart in the 
pains and sorrows of his inferiors." This 
our Saint practised to the letter. The 
necessities of his novices were his own ; he 
felt all their pains. In him they found not 
only a master, but a physician, a counsellor, 
a father, a superior, a friend, a sure guide, 
and a happy asylum, where they found 
peace of soul, after their combats against 
the passions. They came from him filled 



84 Life of St. (Benedict. 

with courage to recommence that spiritual 
war under the auspices of a chief accus 
tomed to victory, who never recoiled from 
the combat, and who always met his ene 
mies, the passions, with the arms of absti 
nence and patience, which he had inherited 
from the Patriarch St. Francis; hence, his 
disciples, accustomed to conquer in their 
turn, became the firm supports of the 
reform, which shone even beyond Sicily. 

The Saint paid such particular attention 
to his novices, that he often read their very 
thoughts, and warned them when they had 
reason to fear bad effects. The good 
Master s tender solicitude was marvellously 
seconded by the gift of the penetration of 
hearts, bestowed on him by Almighty God, 
of which we shall speak in the following 
chapter. The effect of this was to keep 
the novices always on their guard, not only 
in their exterior actions, but also in their 



Elected Vicar and Master. 85 

interior. They knew, by experience, that 
Father Benedict clearly read the depths of 
their hearts, and they became assured of it 
by the two following facts: 

While Father Louis d* Alcamo was a 
novice in that convent, he, on one occa 
sion, repented of his good resolution, and 
resolved to return to the world. He was 
reflecting on it, when Father Benedict 
called him. The novice obeyed and listened 
to the Saint, who exposed vividly the misfor 
tune of looking back, when there is no good 
reason for doing so, and he proved it by 
the strongest reasons, adding, finally: And 
you, my son, why do you allow yourself to be 
seduced, why do you think of returning to the 
world? The astonished novice replied: 
And how do you know my intention? A 
little bird told me, answered the Saint. The 
novice bowed his head, acknowledged the 
evil thought, became convinced by what he 

8 



86 Life of St. (Benedict. 

had heard, and absolutely renounced the 
bad design. 

Two religious, Gregory of Licata and 
Jerome of Palermo, while in the novitiate, 
formed the design of secretly leaving the 
convent. About seven o clock in the even 
ing of a day in January, they scaled the 
enclosure, and were already on the road, 
but the Saint came suddenly to the spot, 
reproved them gently, and led them again 
within the enclosure. But as they did not 
surmount the Jtemptation, it, a short time 
afterwards, became even more violent, and 
they took flight a second time. They had 
reached the same spot when they met the 
Saint, who knew their secret determination. 
Like a good shepherd, he, with his accus 
tomed sweetness, led the two wandering 
sheep back to the fold. This time they 
remained faithful; Benedict s exalted virtue 
forever banished from their minds the evil 
design to which they had twice yielded. 



CHAPTER IX. 
ST. BENEDICT S DOCTRINE. 

T may appear surprising that we should 
speak of the doctrine of our Saint, 
after the avowal made by himself, as 
we have already seen, that he was ignorant, 
and could neither read nor write. With 
much greater reason will learned men, to 
whom science has cost so much labor, laugh 
at finding in their ranks, a lay-brother, 
drawn from the plough and his labor in the 
fields. But it is not the first time that, in 
order to confound the wise ones of the 
world, the sovereign Majesty of God has 
given knowledge to the simple, to women 
and children. Hence the community was 
not surprised to hear St. Benedict speak of 

87 



88 Life of St. (Benedict. 

the most sublime mysteries of faith, like 
one perfectly skilled in the deepest and 
most abstruse studies. When Guardian, 
he often spoke in public, and his discourses 
were full of holy erudition and divine 
science. The minds and hearts of his audi 
tors were deeply penetrated, so that his 
words, like the seed that fell upon good 
earth, produced abundant fruit. 

When Vicar and Master of Novices, he 
was accustomed to explain to them, after 
Matins, the lessons of the Holy Scripture 
which they had recited in choir. Such 
explanations would have required in an 
other long study and profound meditation ; 
but our Saint, who could not even read the 
lessons, developed their hidden sense with 
marvellous facility. If any one proposed to 
him some doubt or difficulty, however sub 
tle it might be, he would not only solve it 
in the most precise manner, and in the 



(Benedict s (Doctrine. 89 

technical terms of theology, but would also 
be able to give lengthy and faithful quota 
tions from the Sacred Writings, as if he had 
them daily in his hands. Wise and learned 
men could not witness this without confu 
sion, or without recalling with surprise the 
Catherines, the Fabiolas, the Marcellas and 
the learned Eustochium, so much com 
mended by St. Jerome. 

People were amazed to see men grown 
gray in study, men honored with the public 
esteem, often seeking, without shame, a 
favorable opportunity of receiving instruc 
tion from Benedict, sometimes on one diffi 
culty, sometimes on another, and leaving 
him satisfied with his responses. The fruit 
of the holy man s instructions was not con 
fined to giving simple lights, or to solving 
a few difficulties ; those who consulted him, 
reaped from their communicatoins a still 
more important advantage, that of humbling 



90 Life of St. (Benedict. 

themselves in the depths of their hearts 
before the infinite wisdom of God, who 
desires, by such extraordinary favors, to 
confound human pride. 

It would be impossible in a simple abridg 
ment, to expose all the doubts proposed 
and cleared up by our Saint, or to name 
all those who addressed themselves to him, 
and went away perfectly satisfied. We 
skall cite only a few instances, which will 
be sufficient to convince the reader. 

Three celebrated Franciscans, Father 
Joseph of Syracuse, Professor of Sacred 
Scripture, Father Paul of Mezzara, a dis 
tinguished religious of the province of 
Sicily, and Father Vincent of Messina, 
theologian at the Council of Trent, affirmed 
upon oath, that they had, on several occa 
sions, asked Father Benedict to explain 
difficult passages of the Scripture, which 
to them seemad very obscure, and that he 



Si. Benedict s (Doctrine. 91 

had, on the instant, interpreted them with 
astonishing facility; they acknowledged 
that their science was infinitely inferior to 
that of the good lay-brother. This is an 
avowal of great weight, for, in the republic 
of letters, it is very rare to find one admit 
ting the superiority of another. But in 
recognizing that of our Saint, they paid 
tribute to God Himself, who directed his 
words. 

Father Vincent Magis, a learned Domini 
can of that time, having vainly endeavored 
to penetrate the meaning of a sentence in 
Scripture, laid aside his books, and went to 
the Convent of St. Mary of Jesus to see 
Benedict, to whom he was bound by ties 
of friendship. While he was asking for 
him, the servant of God entered the apart 
ment, and even before saluting him, said: 
"Father, do not be uneasy at not com 
prehending that sentence of Scripture; I 



92 Life of St. (Benedict. 

will explain it to you with the help of 
GoA" 

Father Magis was stupefied at seeing the 
motive of his visit discovered ere he had 
spoken of it, nor was he less astonished to 
hear Benedict solve his doubt, and give 
him a more perfect explanation than he 
could have expected to receive from a con 
summate theologian. At his departure, he 
paid a compliment to the reformed Fathers, 
saying: "My Fathers, you have here a 
great servant of God, for not only has he 
predicted what I came to ask him, but has 
explained to me the sense of a passage in 
Scripture* which, up till now, I could never 
understand." 

Our Saint s doctrine was, then, accom 
panied by the gift of penetrating the most 
hidden things, and we have seen him exer 
cising this gift in regard to fugitive novices. 
He had possessed it even in the hermitage. 



. (Benedict s (Doctrine. 93 

A husbandman, who loved him and his 
brother hermits very much, presented him 
one day with a basket of fresh grapes. 
The Saint, while accepting them, divided 
them into two parts, and said to his bene 
factor: " I willingly accept this part for my 
brethren, because it comes from your own 
vine, but I return you the other, because 
you have taken it from another s vine." 
This was true : the ignorant man had stolen 
from his neighbor, in order to make his 
present more considerable. It was also by 
means of this penetration that the Saint 
replied to the letter of a Sister of Pope 
Sixtus V, without having received it, for he 
said to Father Ambrose of Polichi, then 
Guardian: "I already know what that lady 
desires to say; I will pray for her." The 
like happened to Dominic Vito, to whom 
he predicted his cure, and also told him 
what had happened between him and hi* 



94 Life of St. (Benedict. 

confessor; and again to Francis Ficcheto, 
whom the Saint reproved for not having 
fulfilled the paschal duty. 

The happy city of Palermo also enjoyed 
the benefits of his supernatural science. 
Miss Agatha Bianchi, whose conscience 
was much troubled, was one of those who 
profited by it. She came with her mother 
to visit Father Benedict, who, as soon as 
he had seen her, exclaimed: "Temptation, 
temptation! Why are you surprised at it? 
The Mother of God was the only one who 
was not tempted; we must all suffer it."* 

The young lady was comforted, and the 
mother then learned that her daughter had 

* The holy Fathers distinguish two sorts of temptations : the 
temptations in which God sees we will yield ; our Lord bids us 
pray to be delivered from such: And If ad us not into temptati <m, 
and those in which we shall triumph, and which increase the 
merits of the saints. Certainly the Blessed Virgin having con 
tracted no stain of sin, was exempt from the first kind of temp- 
fation*. Our Saint told the exact truth. 



St. (Benedict s (Doctrine. 95 

been tormented by a temptation which she 
had not had the courage to discover. In 
the following chapter we shall relate some 
other revelations, because they are joined 
to a knowledge of the future, which the 
Sun of Justice was pleased to bestow upon 
our Saint, by reflecting on him some rays 
of His divine wisdom. Benedict s know 
ledge was not confined within the limits of 
religion and its dependencies ; it extended 
also to the domain of secular prudence, and 
was most useful to the government It 
was known throughout Sicily, that the 
Count d Alba, then viceroy, went to the 
convent to confer with the Saint on the 
affairs of his administration and in difficult 
circumstances of state policy. The Arch 
bishop of Palermo, as well as other bishops 
and prelates, consulted Benedict on the 
most important affairs. The most highly 
educated gentlemen and ladies often asked 



Life of Si. (Benedict. 

his advice, and everywhere people testified 
the highest esteem for him, even in courts, 
where we generally find only flattery, self- 
interest and imposture. 




CHAPTER X. 




THK GIFT OP PROPHECY BESTOWED ON OUR SAINT. 

HE ray of heavenly light which dis 
covered to Benedict present things 
unknown to men, gave him also a 
knowledge of the future. On one occasion, 
a lady named Jane had scarcely made her 
appearance before him, when he said : " You 
desire to know about your ton ; go in the 
peace of the Lord; you shall soon have 
tidings of him, and, before very long, will 
see him." All this came to pass. The 
Saint said to Octavius Panittera : " Follow 
up your law-suit; in a few days you will 
gain it," which really happened. When 
Father Benedict was Guardian, he went one 

day, accompanied Brother Vito, to beg at a 
9 97 



98 Life of St. (Benedict. 

warehouse of Salanto. In the evening he 
said to his companion : " Let us pray that 
God will this night preserve, from the hands 
of the Turks, those persons in that ware 
house who have been so kind to us." " But," 
replied the astonished Vito, "how do you 
know that the Turks will come precisely to 
night?" Father Benedict replied: "It is 
enough that it will be so." Both began to 
pray for their benefactors. Now, about 
the middle of the night, two Turkish gal 
leys and a galiot attacked the warehouse, 
but those who lived there, had, through a 
particular Providence of God, being in dread 
of an attack, left the depot, so that they 
escaped the danger, and through the Saint s 
prayers, the place, although entirely aban 
doned, was not injured. 

One day, Benedict was at the door of the 
convent addressing words of consolation 
to some afflicted persons; for when unable 



The Gift of (Prophecy. 99 

to do more, he testified his compassion for 
their misfortunes. While he was speaking, 
he saw a carriage coming in great haste to 
the convent, and he said to the assistants: 
" Some one has robbed that lady of a large 
sum of money." The carriage drove up to 
the convent door, but before the lady had 
time to speak, the Saint said : " Do not be 
distressed; your money is found; it is 
already in your house." The lady returned 
home with joy, and found the prophecy fully 
verified. Feeling that the restitution had 
been obtained by him who had predicted it, 
she, in gratitude, sent to the convent a 
present of wax- tapers to be burned in the 
church of the Reformed Minors, where they, 
at the same time, manifested the grace 
obtained by the merits of the servant of 
God, and the accomplishment of the pro 
phecy. 

Anthony Vignes, a Catalonian merchant. 



loo Life of St. (Benedict. 

much afflicted because a ship laden with 
cloth and other merchandise from Barce 
lona, which he was expecting, had not been 
heard of forty days after its departure, was 
led to fear it had been captured by pirates 
or been shipwrecked. In his anxiety, he 
had recourse to Father Benedict, who 
assured him the vessel would arrive. 
Vignes was reassured by this response, but 
after some days, his disquiet returned, and 
he again went to the Saint, who told him 
that the vessel was delayed on account of 
bad weather and the danger it had run, and 
that it had been forced to remain, for fif 
teen days, in the port of Sardaigne. The 
convent being situated on a hill, whence 
there was an extensive view of the sea, 
they perceived a vessel about twelve miles 
distance, sailing towards Palermo. Vignes, 
full of joy, thought it was his. "No," 
answered Benedict, "that ship is coming 



The Gift of (Prophecy. 101 

from Majorca, but it will be speedily fol 
lowed by yours." The result confirmed 
the prediction. The grateful merchant 
wished to make a present to the convent, 
without it being known beforehand, because 
the Saint would not accept anything for 
himself. At the time that the religious 
usually went to the refectory, Father Bene 
dict told them to wait, saying that Vignes 
was bringing a fish, and he ordered the 
porter to wait his arrival. A few moments 
later, the merchant came with the fish, and 
finding that the porter was expecting him, 
was much amazed. 

The wife of Don Vincent Platamone 
being in the pains of childbirth, was in 
imminent danger of death. Father Bene 
dict, by inspiration, and without being 
invited, went to the palace. No sooner 
was he perceived, than sadness fled the 
house; everybody ran to him as to an angel 
7* 



IO2 Life of St. (Benedict. 

sent by heaven for the consolation of the 
family, and recommended the sick woman 
to his prayers. The Saint asked permission 
to retire to the domestic chapel to recite 
the Rosary, clearly foretelling to Vincent 
that before he should have finished his 
prayer, his wife would have brought forth a 
son who should become a good religious, 
but should live only a short time afterwards. 
A few moments later, a son was born, who, 
when he grew up, became doctor of laws. 
Turning his talents in another direction, he 
entered the Society of Jesus, where he was 
employed in preaching, and finally, at the 
entreaties of the Fathers of Syracuse, he 
was sent to Palermo. The pestilence 
breaking out at that time, the good religious 
was attacked by it while generously assist 
ing the sick in the public hospital, and died 
there, regretted by everybody, but especi 
ally by his father. In the examination insti- 



The Gift of (Prophecy. 103 

tuted in Palermo, in 1625, that good knight 
deposed, that he had bitterly mourned his 
son s death, but had been consoled in see 
ing blessed Benedict s prophecy so fully 
accomplished. 

According to an evil report spread in 
Palermo, a felucca from Girgenti had been 
pursued by several Turkish brigan tines, and 
it was justly feared that it had been cap 
tured. Madame Ginepra Luparini, who 
knew that her son, Father Thomas, a Capu 
chin, was in the felucca, hastened, all in 
tears, to Father Benedict. The Saint told 
her, smiling, that Father Thomas had ar 
rived safe in Rome, and that, either on that 
day or the next, she would receive his 
letters. The lady, fully reassured, returned 
home, where she found that a young man 
fcom Rome had brought a letter from 
Father Thomas, but that having been told 
to give it only into his mother s hands, he 



IO4 Life of St. (Benedict. 

had been unwilling to leave it, but had pro 
mised to return on the morrow. Thus was 
the prediction exactly accomplished in every 
circumstance. 

Don Peter Barreri had set out for Genoa 
with the intention of marrying a relation 
of the Doge, being determined by the hope 
of a rich dowry. His parents were ex 
tremely afflicted thereat, as it was an alli 
ance unsuitable to their condition, against 
which they had often spoken very strongly, 
but they had no longer any hope of avoid 
ing it, as the young knight had set out 
The mother, in default of any other conso 
lation, went to the convent, and revealed 
to Benedict the cause of her grief, adding 
that she could see no remedy. But the 
Saint, having a clear knowledge of the 
future, said to her: "Be consoled; is there 
no sickness in the world ?" The prophecy 
was not understood at that time, but, after 



The Gift of (Prophecy. 105 

some days, they learned that Don Peter 
had been dangerously ill in Rome, that his 
disobedience had inspired him with a just 
fear, and that, upon his recovery, he had 
resolved to return home. In fact, he 
returned to Palermo, and thus fulfilled the 
words of Benedict, who had not only pre 
dicted his illness, but that it would result 
in his changing his design and returning to 
Palermo to take care of his parents. Every 
body believed that both the prediction and 
its accomplishment were due to the prayers 
of our Saint. 

But let us listen to an account given by 
the Lady Petronilla Alesi at the juridicial 
examinations. She was then sixty years old. 
"I was first married," said she, "to Csesar 
Russo, with whom I lived several years. I 
was much disquieted and troubled about 
his irregular habits. Not knowing what 
to do, I told my anxiety to everybody, in 



io6 Life of St. (Benedict. 

hopes of finding a remedy. I had recourse 
to a magician, who gave me a certain kind 
of powder in a paper, telling me to give it 
to him to drink, or, at least, to throw it 
down his back. I retired with the intention 
of obeying him, but remorse took posses 
sion of me, and returning to myself, I re 
solved not to do it. A better thought 
entered my mind. I learned that, in the 
convent of St. Mary of Jesus, there dwelt 
a holy religious called Benedict of Sanfra- 
tello, who wrought many miracles. I re 
solved to seek from him some consolation 
in my grief, and especially a remedy for my 
disquiet of mind. I went to him, and 
exposed my husband s state. Go/ said 
he, go and throw away the demon you 
have with you, and then return/ Failing 
to understand him, I told the Saint I did 
not know what he wished me to do, but he 
repeated the words more forcibly, and left 



The Gift of Prophecy. 107 

me. As I was reflecting on the meaning 
of what I had just heard, my mother, who 
was present, but who is now dead, reminded 
me of the magician s powder, and asked 
me if I had it about me. Remembering 
that it was in my pocket, I threw it away, 
and even shook out my pocket, that no 
vestige of it might remain. Then I recalled 
Father Benedict, who came to me smiling, 
and, before I had spoken, said: * Now that 
you have thrown away the demon tha. you 
had with you, go home in peace ; your hus 
band expects you, and henceforth you will 
live peaceably with him. Encouraged by 
this good news, I returned home, where my 
husband was really awaiting me, and from 
that moment we lived happily together. He 
became wholly changed, and seemed like an 
other man, which lasted until his death; and 
I have never forgotten the perfect accom 
plishment of Father Benedict s prediction." 



io8 Ufe of St. Benedict. 

Our Saint s prophecies were so numer 
ous, that, in order not to interrupt the 
thread of this history, we shall content our 
selves with briefly noticing a few of them. 
He told two mothers who were deeply 
afflicted at their sons disorders, that they 
should soon perish, which really came to 
pass. Augustin Benaccolto recommended 
the prayer of Father Benedict for his son, 
who was ill in Spain; the Saint predicted 
his recovery and the speedy arrival of the 
good news, five days previous to their 
receiving intelligence of the fact. He 
assured the family of Nicholas Precori that 
he had died out of the kingdom. He 
affirmed to Lucretia Navaretti that her 
husband was painting the royal palace 
at Madrid, and that he would soon return 
to his own country, which was verified by 
the event He announced die death of 
Bianca, sister of the Princess of Calatanis- 



The Gift of Prophecy. 109 

seta, and also that of Madame Diana of 
Arragon and the cure of her husband, 
which was fully verified. 

Hence, so certain were they in Palermo 
of St. Benedict s prophecies, that when any 
one went to consult him on some important 
affair, particularly the cure or death of the 
sick, he was very careful to notice the 
Saint s manner of answering. If he said 
not to fear, or bade him to hope or to pray 
to God, or something of that kind, the sick 
person would certainly recover. But if he 
bade him submit to God, or resign himself 
to the Divine will, no one doubted that the 
person recommended would die. Vignes, 
of whom we have spoken at the beginning 
of this chapter, deposed under oath, in the 
examination instituted at Palermo, that 
Francis Almanara, a Catalonian, having fal 
len sick at his house, he sent word to Bene 
dict to pray for the patient, telling the mes- 



10 



no Life of St. (Benedict. 

senger to pay particular attention to the 
Saint s words. The answer was, "Tell Don 
Antonio to be patient and resign himself 
to our Lord s will." When Vignes heard 
this, he knew that his friend would die, 
which really happened in a few days. The 
Saint made many other prophecies, which 
were literally verified; we shall speak of 
more, when we come to his death. Let the 
reader here share our pity for those who 
take such trouble to learn the most trifling 
things, future and present, and who, after 
so many efforts to discover the truth, find 
it elude their search, while the true servants 
of God know every thing by casting a 
glance on the heavenly books. 




CHAPTER XL 

ST. BENEDICT RETURNS TO THE KITCHEH. 

FTER having perfectly filled, both by 
word and example, the offices of Vicar 
and Master of Novices, charges which, 
moreover, he had exercised only through 
obedience and not through ambition, bri 
bery, or desire of domination, Benedict 
joyfully returned to his employment in the 
kitchen, and gave himself entirely to it. 
That office was agreeable to his humility ; 
it also gave him more opportunities for 
prayer and extraordinary penitential exer 
cises. He believed he could live more 
hidden there, and in truth, we know not 
the heavenly gifts and favors he received in 
that humble retreat Being no longer 

III 



1 1 a Life of St. (Benedict. 

obliged to attend to the house, or occupy 
himself with the care of the young subjects, 
he could be more easily recollected and 
united with God. While the fire prepared 
the food, or the angels accomplished his 
humble duties, he persevered in prayer, and 
therein received those real and solid advan 
tages, of which no idea can be formed by 
the wise ones of the age, who dwell in dark 
ness in the midst of light 

At the door of that humble kitchen were 
to be seen the nobles of Palermo, who sought 
to honor the Saint and recommend them 
selves to his prayers, the learned who came 
for advice, the afflicted who desired consola 
tion, the sick who hoped for the recovery 
of their health, and the indigent who desired 
assistance. A lady, whose eyes were so 
badly diseased that she had almost lost her 
sight, went to the convent, and asked to 
speak with Saint Benedict He was just 



(Returns to the Kitchen. 113 

then occupied in salting a fish, but as soon 
as called he went, without thinking to wash 
his hands. The noble lady showed him 
her infirmity, and begged him to cure her; 
he made the sign of the cross on her eyes 
with his hands covered with salt; the dis 
ease immediately disappeared, and she per 
fectly recovered her sight What were her 
surprise and joy? what the sentiments 
of those who had witnessed the prodigy? 
They may be more easily imagined than 
described. 

People extolled the sanctity of the holy 
religious, recalling all the graces which the 
Most High had deigned to shed on the 
faithful through his intercession. The fame 
of his heroic virtues was not confined to 
the city of Palermo no more than that of 
his gifts and miracles; it was spread far 
and wide. What effect had this on our 
Saint? He humbled himself profoundly 

10* 



H4 Life of St. (Benedict. 

before God, and, prostrate on the earth, 
confessed before the Divine Majesty and 
before all men, that he was the vilest and 
most miserable of sinners; and this he 
repeated whenever any one asked his 
prayers. This sincere humility made him 
seek the most solitary places in the con 
vent. When he went abroad, he chose the 
most unfrequented roads; if obliged to go 
to Palermo, he would wrap himself in his 
cloak, and cover his head with the capouche, 
that he might not be known. He often 
asked the religious to recommend him to 
God in their general and private prayers, 
that he might acquire the virtue of humility. 
He used to say to them, "I am a mis 
erable sinner, and full of pride; pray God 
to make me humble." Amidst the uni 
versal esteem and veneration with which 
he was surrounded, and while his praises 
were in every one s mouth, he abased him- 



(Returns to the Kitchen. 115 

self before God, and, prostrate on the earth, 
he cried out, "O Lord! can it be that such 
honor is paid to me, who am only a worm 
of the earth, who am but dust and corrup 
tion!" 

But those honors were precisely a favor 
from heaven. Our Saint being one day at 
the convent gate, occupied in consoling the 
afflicted, for he was accustomed to make 
the nourishment of the soul succeed that 
of the body, a blind man, led by a dog, 
came up and asked an alms. Benedict, 
touched by compassion and a secret inspira 
tion, made the sign of the cross on the eyes 
of the blind man, who cried aloud: I see! 
A miracle ! a miracle! Drawn by his cries 
of joy, the religious ran to the spot, and a 
crowd gathered around him to assure them 
selves that he was cured. Then the hum 
ble Benedict withdrew, and hid himself in 
a thicket, where he remained for some time. 



n6 Life of St. (Benedict. 

On his return to the kitchen, he was asked 
why he had fled away after the blind man s 
cure. He answered that the Blessed Vir 
gin had wrought that prodigy, and that he 
had concealed himself, lest it might be 
inconsiderately attributed to him, who was 
only a poor, miserable sinner. He, in truth, 
believed himself to be such, and it was that 
conviction which caused him to perform 
such severe penances, to take such bloody 
disciplines, to fast so rigorously, to give so 
much time to prayer, and to prostrate him 
self both day and night before his Creator, 
to beg pardon for his offences. God took 
delight in honoring His servant s profound 
humility, by giving him striking proofs of 
His love. During prayer, Benedict s face 
often became luminous with heavenly light. 
It is known that St. Francis of Assisium 
also possessed this gift. On one occasion, 
at Assisium, while he was speaking to the 



(Returns to the Kitchen. 117 

religious, in the refectory, of heavenly 
things, his whole figure became so luminous 
that the light shone all over the house, so 
that people ran there, thinking it was on 
fire. Father Michael of Girgenti was 
invited by another religious to go to the 
choir, and see St. Benedict in the like state, 
while he was praying during the night. 
The rays of light darting from his counte 
nance illumined the whole choir, although 
there was no other light there at the time. 
Father Jerome of Drepano, at the invitation 
of his brethren, enjoyed the same spectacle, 
and admired the like prodigy; he after 
wards affirmed that everybody regarded 
that light as extraordinary. St. Benedict s 
face became more radiant at the time of 
Holy Communion. He approached that 
ineffable Sacrament with inexpressible devo 
tion and tenderness. The Reformed reli 
gious were, according to custom, to assist at 



n8 Life of St. (Benedict^ 

the Corpus Christi procession at Palermo. 
Father Severinus de la Ficarra, then Supe 
rior, ordered Father Benedict to carry the 
cross. The Saint immediately obeyed, and 
walked, during the whole procession, with 
his eyes fixed on the crucifix; he was as if 
ravished out of himself; his face beamed 
with supernatural light; people remarked 
it to one another, and everybody was much 
moved. The Saint s gaze was fixed on the 
crucifix, and his heart attached to the Divine 
Sacrament. But the light of the august 
Sacrament, invisible to the eyes of men, 
was reflected on Benedict s face, who, in 
that moment, was wholly absorbed in the 
consideration of the adorable Mystery, in 
which God Himself becomes our nourish 
ment. That contemplation was a continual 
ecstasy, which lasted the whole time of the 
procession. In order to distinguish between 
the diabolical ecstasies of the Montanists 



(Returns to the Kitchen. 119 

and the divine ecstasies of the true prophets 
of the New Testament, the first are called 
parestases, that is to say, furious and fanati 
cal transports of the soul, and the second 
simply ecstasies. Tertullian, after he had 
become an heretical Montanist, went so far 
as to call ecstasy folly. We say that ecstasy 
is, properly speaking, an extraordinary 
movement of the soul, which has but short 
duration. It is sometimes confounded with 
enthusiasm, which inflames and transports 
the soul animated by the spirit of God, so 
that it expresses singular and supernatural 
things; it was this enthusiasm with which 
the ancient prophets and many other holy 
souls were seized. Hence it comes that 
the gift of prophecy is often united with 
ecstasy, and sacred history frequently shows 
them united in the early ages of the Church. 
But the ecstasies with which the saints, and 
among them our Benedict, were favored, 



1 20 Life of St. (Benedict. 

were distinct from the prophecies, being In 
him only a ravishing of spirit, in the great 
fervor of prayer, by which he was raised to 
the vision of heavenly things; and that 
elevation of spirit was sometimes so vehe 
ment that it drew the body itself, which 
might be seen elevated from the ground 
more or less, and following the soul tending 
to its centre, which is God. 

We have already spoken of the ecstasies 
and visions which he frequently had, in 
which the body did not follow the spirit by 
rising in the air, when he prayed in his cell, 
in the convent garden, or in the kitchen on 
Christmas day, and particularly in the pro 
cession of which we have just spoken. We 
have no other monument of the ecstasies 
in which our Saint s body was raised from 
the ground, than the attestation, under oath, 
of the servant of God, Sister Francis 
Locitraro, who beheld Father Benedict 



(Returns to the Kitchen. 

raised in the air before the altar of the 
Blessed Virgin, as she declared to her 
spiritual father, and afterwards in the juridi 
cal examination. The facility with which 
the Saint could hide himself in the woods 
contiguous to the convent, and the pro 
found silence of the night, the faithful 
witness of his prayers and vigils, prevented 
others from seeing him thus raised in the 
air, which must, nevertheless, have fre 
quently happened, according to the opinion 
of many. Father Dominic Gravina, in the 
twenty-second chapter of the second book 
of The Voice of the Turtle Dove, speaks as 
follows: "Father Benedict of Sanfratello 
was adorned with purity, simplicity, and the 
spirit of prophecy, and favored with the 
gift of ecstasy." Let us then be content 
with seeing him elevated in spirit, according 
to the words of Pope St. Gregory in the 
Third Homily of the first book OH the 



ii 



122 Life of St. (Benedict. 

Prophet Ezechiel: "We are in some sort 
elevated in the air by contemplation, which 
raises us above ourselves." 

The Saint acquitted himself so well, and 
so much to the satisfaction of his superiors, 
of his employment as cook, that they 
willingly allowed him to retain it for the 
rest of his life. In truth, it would have 
been difficult for them to find a cook so 
charitable, so useful, and so suitable to their 
wants. They knew, by experience, how 
favored he was by Heaven; they were 
daily indebted to him for celestial favors 
and human succors, in virtue of which, that 
community, then in all the rigor of the 
reform, was sustained by the help of the 
extraordinary favors procured by Benedict, 
so that the convent could flatter itself with 
having everything while it had its holy 
cook. 

The religio is had an opportunity of 



Returns to the Kitchen. 123 

recognizing the particular succors granted 
by Heaven to our Saint, when, on one 
occasion, there was no wood for the kitchen. 
St. Benedict, going out, perceived that a 
tree had been thrown down by a storm ; it 
was so large that six robust men could 
scarcely have moved it, much less carried 
it away. The holy cook, no way embar 
rassed, lifted it on those shoulders which he 
so severely scourged, with as much ease as 
if it had been a cane or a little branch. 
Astonished at the sight, the religious asked 
him how he could bear such an enormous 
weight. The Saint merely replied that he 
had brought it for the use of the kitchen, 
as there was no wood; but everybody was 
convinced that an invisible hand had assisted 
him in bearing the burden. 




CHAPTER XII. 

MIRACLES WROUGHT BY THE SAINT DURING HIS LIFE. 

ESIDES the miracles we have already 
recorded, the authentic memoirs we 
have in our possession give many 
others, but as neither time nor place are 
designated, we have chosen only a few, the 
recital of which will suffice to prove our 
Lord s predilection for His servant Bene 
dict We shall first relate what happened 
to a carpenter of Palermo, named Libert 
de Nicholas, originally from Genoa. While 
he was engaged, with some other workmen, 
in the convent, he perceived some fir cones 
hanging on a very high tree. Anxious to 
have them, he climbed up some branches 
which served as a ladder, but when he had 



Miracles. 125 

reached a great height, while trying to 
grasp at another branch, that on which he 
stood failed him, and he fell to the ground, 
striking against a stone at the foot of the 
tree, where he lay without breath or 
motion. The religious, pale and trembling, 
ran to the wounded man, who lay uncon 
scious and apparently dead. Father Bene 
dict reanimated their faith, passed his 
hands over the head and limbs of the car 
penter, who rose up, feeling no pain, and 
returned to work. 

A poor cripple coming to the convent, 
cast himself at Benedict s feet, and with 
tears, begged his cure; the Saint made the 
sign of the cross upon the afflicted mem 
bers ; the man immediately cast away his 
crutches, and ran through the cloister, cry 
ing out, A miracle! A miracle! By the 
sign of the cross, Benedict also restored 
sight to several blind persons, among whom 



n 



126 Life of St. (Benedict. 

we may mention M. Vincent, and the 
daughter of Francis Pagliesi, who had both 
been deprived of their sight by cataract. 
The daughter of Laurence Catania, and a 
religious of an abbey in Palermo, who had 
become blind by an accident, recovered 
their sight by the Saint s prayers. 

Francis Mary Masciulla of Palermo, had 
been vainly seeking, for two years, a 
remedy for a strange disease which afflicted 
his daughter, who was not ten years old. 
She grew worse from day to day, and 
seemed only skin and bone, but the physi 
cians understood nothing about her case. 
After having tried every remedy, the father 
thought of having recourse to Benedict, 
and, that he might obtain his request, made 
the convent a present of thirty pounds of 
oil, which was the weight of the sick child. 
Going to the convent with his wife and 
child, he asked for Father Benedict, and 



Miracles. 127 

recommended their daughter to his prayers. 
The Saint placed his hand on the little girl s 
head, recited some prayers, and taking 
some oil from the lamp of the Blessed 
Virgin, he told the mother to anoint her 
with it. From that moment she began to 
recover, and was soon perfectly cured. 

Two sons of a teacher in Palermo began 
to quarrel in a garden near Benedict s con 
vent; they went so far, that the stronger 
of the two threw his brother on the ground, 
and struck him on the breast with a heavy 
stone, so violently, that he vomited a great 
quantity of blood, and lay without any signs 
of life or respiration. The father and other 
relations knew not what to do, but Bene 
dict coming at that moment, no one knew 
how, he raised their courage, and inspired 
them with hope. Casting themselves at 
his feet, they begged him to cure the 
wounded boy. The Saint, as was his cus- 



r 28 Life of St. (Benedict; 

torn, exhorted them to have a lively confi 
dence in God; then, going up to the young 
man, he made the sign of the cro$s with 
saliva on the injured and bloody parts, and 
went away. But scarcely had he turned 
his back, when the boy began to breathe, 
and rose to his feet; his parents wished 
him to rest, but he refused, and returned 
to the garden to walk and amuse himself, 
feeling not the slightest trace of his wound. 
Vincent and Philip Vassalli came to the 
convent to ask an orange for their nephew, 
who was sick. The sacristan to whom 
they addressed themselves, told them 
politely that it was impossible to oblige 
them, as the winter had stripped the orange 
trees of their fruit and even their leaves; 
to remove all their doubts he took them to 
the orangery, and examined the trees, to 
see if any might be on the branches, but 
the search was fruitless. A man named 



Miracles. 129 

Andrew Bertucci of Palermo, who was 
known to Benedict, assisted them in the 
search. When they had convinced them 
selves that there was not an orange there, 
the Saint entered, and they told him of 
their disappointment, but he bade Andrew 
look more closely. Bertucci promptly 
obeyed, but with the same result. "What!" 
said Father Benedict, "are not those 
oranges that are hanging over your head ?" 
Andrew raised his eyes, and beheld, just 
above him, a branch laden with five beau 
tiful oranges. Everybody was convinced 
that they were miraculous, as they were in 
such a conspicuous place, and they after 
wards contributed to the cure of the sick 
boy. 

Here again we are compelled to abridge, 
by recording only a few of our Saint s mira 
cles, or by confining ourselves to merely 
mentioning the names of some of the per- 



130 Life of St. (Benedict. 

sons favored. Frances Fidalia had seven 
ulcers in her treast; our Saint cured her 
instantly by the sign of the cross; he, in 
the same manner, cured the Marchioness 
Julian na of a mortal inflammation of the 
chest. By the same sign, with the invoca 
tion of Jesus, Mary, and Francis, he healed 
Euphrosyne Ferreri of the scrofula, also 
Mme. Laura Montaperto, sister of the 
Baron of Reufadali, a son of John James 
Cantarin, and Roch Imbarbera. In the 
like manner, he cured the daughter of Vin 
cent Lucidi, whose arm was contracted by 
an imposthume, and a man recovered the 
use of his arm by Benedict s simply touch 
ing it. By a short prayer, he cured a lady 
afflicted with the dropsy. Some hairs of 
his beard, taken secretly when the Saint 
was shaving, being applied by Anthony 
Luparelli of Girgenti to a mortal wound 
which Georland his son had received in the 



Miracles. 131 

region of the heart, the young man was 
healed on the instant. One visit which our 
Saint, by his Superior s order, paid to the 
wife of the Viceroy of Sicily, sufficed to 
restore her health, 

Laurence Bonaparte being reduced to 
extremity, and given over by his physicians, 
had recourse to the prayers of our Saint, 
and was immediately cured. The Saint, 
by the sign of the cross, restored sight to 
two little girls, Pierrette Bianca and Lucre- 
tia Catania, cured a little boy of hernia, 
and restored health .o Frances Matassa. 
But among the cures he wrought during 
his life, the following is most remarkable. 
The son of George Russo, who had been 
killed, was brought to the church to be 
buried. Father Benedict, moved with com 
passion, offered a short prayer; then going 
to uie dead child, he made the sign of the 
cross over him, and recalled him to life; 



132 Ufe of St. (Benedict. 

restoring him to those who had brought 
him to the tomb, he changed their tears of 
grief into tears of joy, and to their first 
emotions of surprise succeeded general 
applause. 

The prodigies wrought by Benedict ex 
tended even ,o the animals, fields, and 
gardens. The mule belonging to the con 
vent-physician being lame, on account of a 
broken foot having been badly set, the 
Saint said the Lord s Prayer, and the 
animal was cured. At his prayers, destruc 
tive insects fled from the fields they had 
infected; he had but to raise his hand, and 
ravaging worms fell dead, and the pious 
gardeners beheld with surprise the plants 
that had been destroyed, restored again, 
the leaves renewed, and the fruits multi 
plied. It was, in truth, eminently proper, 
that he who, in his youth, had watered the 
earth with his sweat, and opened it with 



Miracles. 133 

the plough, should be able to preserve and 
augment its fruits by the power received 
from its Creator. Hence, the wisest culti 
vators called on Benedict, as on another 
Isidore, to repair the losses of bad seasons 
and adverse winds, by extending his hand 
over the fields. 

We shall conclude this chapter by the 
reflection of a learned historian, in recalling 
the miracles of St. Benedict " Our blessed 
Saint received from God the power of heal 
ing the sick, especially those afflicted with 
hernia, sciatica, catarrh, and headache. 
Throughout his life, sick persons came 
daily to the convent, and they rarely failed 
to obtain through the Saint the desired 
cure." After this useful reflection, let us 
resume the thread of our history; the pru 
dent reader will not need our counsels ; he 
has been too well taught by experience the 
uncertainty, and, frequently, the inutility of 



12 



134 Life of St. (Benedict. 

human remedies. Our Saint s altar will 
appear to them, then, a most certain refuge 
in their diseases, or in those of their fellow- 
beings. 





CHAPTER XIII. 
ST. BENEDICT S ILLNESS AND DEATH. 

FTER having spent twenty-seven years 
in the kitchen of the convent, (which 
he had never wholly abandoned, not 
even when he held the office of Guardian or 
of Master of Novices and Vicar, because he 
could there more continually mortify his 
body, and find the delights of the soul;) 
after he had so long mingled his sweat with 
the blood of his macerations ; after so many 
prodigies wrought in that kitchen, in favor 
of his neighbor, and to the glory of God, 
our Saint fell ill in January, 1589. From 
the very hour of his birth, he had prepared 

135 



136 Life of St. (Benedict. 

himself for his blessed death. The news of 
his illness was sent immediately to John 
Dominic Rubiani, a rich lawyer of Palermo, 
who had always venerated Benedict as a 
saint. He was not slow in visiting him, 
and as he seemed deeply afflicted, thinking 
that sickness the sign of his approaching 
death, the servant of God said to him: 
"This time it is our Lord s will that I 
recover from the malady, but the next time 
I shall die; this will be bqfore long, because 
I have finished my career." This really 
happened. Benedict recovered, but only 
for a short time. On the 4th of the follow 
ing March he was attacked by a continual 
and violent fever. 

The literal accomplishment of the first 
part of his prediction caused the second to 
be considered infallibly certain. The com 
munity was plunged in grief at seeing itself 
about to lose a member so holy, sc venera- 



Illness and (beath. 137 

ble, so useful. Nor was this sadness con 
fined within the limits of the cloister; the 
poor, the sick, those friends, those noblemen, 
those learned men who had sought from him 
succor, health, advice, or who loved to visit 
him through devotion or in the hope of pro 
fiting by his knowledge, all were over 
whelmed with sorrow on learning his sick 
ness and his prediction. And although the 
mortal malady slowly wore away the thread 
of his beautiful life, and the Saint calmly 
suffered during a whole month, yet no ray 
of hope ever softened the universal regret, 
because Benedict s prophecies had never 
failed to be accomplished. 

It is impossible to describe the assiduous 
and tender care bestowed on him by the 
sorrow-stricken religious, who surrounded 
his bed. Gratitude, fraternal charity, and 
their own spiritual interest led them to 
this service, which they never interrupted. 



1 38 Life of St. (Benedict. 

From Benedict s life, they judged clearly 
what would be his death, and the recom 
pense of his heroic actions ; and each hoped 
to have him for his protector in heaven. 
Hence, everybody recommended himself to 
him, and this was their only consolation. 
The Saint, filled with celestial joy, thanked 
them affectionately, and begged them not 
to fatigue themselves, as all their attentions 
would be useless. Nevertheless, although 
he accepted their care with gratitude, the 
holy desire of suffering which had possessed 
him during life, grew more vehement in his 
last moments, and caused the attentions of 
his brethren to be more a pain than a con 
solation to him. When they gave him a 
drink to calm the burning thirst produced 
by fever, he used to say: "Why show so 
much delicacy for the body? What good 
are so many remedies? The Saviour of 
the world, my Love, endured so many tor- 



Illness and (Death. 139 

merits in His cruel passion! why is so much 
attention paid to me?" 

The Saint s fervor, and his ardent wish 
to suffer, so as to be more conformable to 
his Master in his death, increased in pro 
portion as his last moments approached. 
He gave a striking proof of this when, 
being asked if he suffered from thirst, he, 
not to fail in the truth, replied that he had 
thirst, and even a burning thirst, but that 
it seemed as nothing when he thought of 
our Redeemer s thirst on the cross; hence 
he endured it with admirable joy and 
patience. And as Jesus on Calvary did 
not refuse the drink offered Him, so Bene 
dict, faithful to the last to obedience, took 
whatever was presented by the physicians 
and infirmarians. Hence, on the very day 
of his death, he took, at the physician s 
order, the yolks of two eggs, which to him, 
as well as to others, must have seemed 



1 40 Life of St. (Benedict. 

very heavy, and unsuitable to his com 
plaint 

During the course of his last illness, St 
Benedict had several times received the 
sacraments of Penance and the Holy 
Eucharist, but in his last moments, before 
he received the Holy Viaticum, he raised 
himself a little in his poor bed, and having 
put his cord around his neck, he, with all 
his strength, begged the pardon of his faults, 
and he did it with so much submission and 
so many tears, that he deeply moved all 
the assistants. Knowing well his inno 
cence and sanctity, they admired him while 
he confessed that he was the most misera 
ble sinner on earth. It is not difficult to 
imagine the sweet transports of that pure 
soul in receiving the Holy Viaticum, and 
his recollection when Extreme Unction was 
administered to him. 

But suddenly, in the midst of his repose, 



Illness and (Death. 141 

he said to his infirmarians, Father Francis 
of Genoa, and Fathers Paul and William of 
Piazza: "Place some chairs for thoee holy 
ladies who come to visit me ;" and as the 
religious replied that they saw none, he 
said: "What! do you not see St. Ursula, 
who has brought her holy company to visit 
me ? There are so many that they would 
fill a large monastery." While he spoke, 
his face became so radiant that it illumi 
nated the whole cell. St. Benedict was 
very devout to those holy virgins ; it was 
not, then, surprising that God permitted 
them to bear him to the glory of heaven. 
Some moments later the sick man added: 
Show courtesy to Father Anthony of Calla- 
girone. This religious had died several 
years previous in the odor of sanctity. 
The Saint added: Do you not see him here 
present? Father William, to whom the 
Saint had thus spoken, seeing the moment 



142 Life of St. (Benedict. 

of his precious death drawing nigh, was 
about to light the blessed candles, but 
Benedict said: "No, my son; the hour is 
not yet come; when it arrives, I will tell 
you." Then he again recollected himself; 
his face became resplendent, and in a few 
moments, he made a sign for the candles 
to be lit. Then crossing his hands on his 
breast, and interrupting the recommenda 
tion of the soul, he, with perfect presence 
of mind, said fervently: Into thy hands, O 
Lord, I commend my spirit, and calmly gave 
up his soul, he being sixty-five years old. 
No one remarked any movement or change 
in his body, and they scarcely perceived 
that he had expired. His death took place 
on the 4th of April, 1589, about eleven 
o clock in the morning. 

Benedicta Nastasi, his niece, a very vir 
tuous young person, being at home weep 
ing over the approaching death of her dear 



Illness and (Death. 143 

uncle, thought she beheld a dove rising in 
the air; at the same moment she heard the 
words: "You do not ask me anything, 
Benedicta?" Remembering her blessed 
uncle, she asked him whither he was 
going? To heaven, was the reply. Bene 
dicta immediately reported what had hap 
pened to Rubiani; he went to the con 
vent, and ascertained that the vision had 
occurred precisely at the moment of Bene 
dict s death. 

The Viceroy was informed of the deatn, 
as he had desired, and on the following day 
he went to the convent. They could not 
refuse to open the tomb of the servant of 
God, but when they entered the cave with a 
torch to show him the body, the light was 
extinguished. As this happened three times, 
they piously concluded that it was the good 
pleasure of God to reserve another kind of 
glory for that venerated body ; we may also 



144 Life of St. (Benedict. 

reflect that the humility ot that tomb was 
incompatible with the splendor of a throne. 
Mgr. Louis Torres, Archbishop of Mon 
treal, and Mgr. Baraona, Inquisitor of the 
kingdom of Naples, followed by a crowd 
of most distinguished persons, visited the 
tomb, to implore the intercession of the ser 
vant of God, and each spoke of some of his 
brilliant actions, and especially of the graces 
bestowed by the hand of the Almighty, 
through St. Benedict s prayers, on the happy 
Sicilians. But what shall we say of the con 
course of people ? 

The news of Benedict s death being 
spread abroad, the inhabitants of Palermo 
flocked in crowds to the church of St. Mary 
of Jesus. Persons of every, age, sex, and 
condition were attracted by the delightful 
odor which came from the virginal body. 
He was universally regretted, and the people 
wept at not being able to behold the gen- 



Illness and (Death. 145 

eral benefactor; they reproacheJ the reli 
gious with having so soon withdrawn the 
holy remains from public veneration. The 
whole city of Palermo reproached itself for 
having been ignorant of the day of Bene 
dict s death, although the occasion of it was 
pious and laudable; it being the custom 
of the inhabitants to visit, on that day, the 
Church of the Holy Ghost, a circumstance 
predicted by Benedict 

To soothe the pious regrets of the people, 
and, at the same time, satisfy their devotion, 
the friars cut into a thousand pieces the 
garments of the saint, but what were they 
among so vast a concourse of residents and 
strangers, who pressed to the venerated 
tomb? Such was their importunity that 
they asked for and obtained the distribution 
of small pieces of the habits of those, at 
least, who had served St. Benedict in his 
last illness, and they hoped to receive 



146 Life of St. (Benedict 

through them grace and consolation, as we 
read was the effect of the shadow of the 
Prince of the Apostles. From all parts of 
Sicily, people came to visit the holy tomb; 
as for the inhabitants of Sanfratello, they 
continually flocked to it, during upwards of 





CHAPTER XIV. 

MIRACLES OPERATED AFTER HIS DEATH. 

HE inhabitants of Sicily doubted not 
that the Most High, after having so 
brilliantly displayed His power by the 
works of the Saint during life, would be 
pleased to give more glorious evidence of 
his sanctity after He had placed him among 
the blessed, and they, very justly, hoped 
that the Saint, whose prayers and compas 
sion had been so useful to the afflicted, 
would, now in heaven, obtain graces and 
prodigies for those who should invoke him. 
We would present to our readers a longer 
series of miracles operated by our Saint 
after death, were it not for the limits we 

H7 



148 Life of St. (Benedict. 

have prescribed ourselves in this history, 
and for the distance also which separates 
us from those nations imbued with devotion 
to Benedict, in whose midst those wonders 
were operated. Hence, from the volumi 
nous collection of the process, we choose 
only a few, which will suffice to excite the 
readers to confidence when oppressed by 
those evils that afflict human nature. This, 
in truth, is one of the motives which cause 
the lives of the heroes of Christianity to 
be written. 

Matthew Baldi, an inhabitant of Sanfra- 
tello, had been subject, for five years, to a 
singular malady, which the Romans and 
Sicilians called lupomania. This is a fright 
ful madness, which, in its paroxysms, 
deprives the patient of the use of reason, 
particularly during the month of February. 
Then, like a madman, he leaves his house 
at night, and with an air of ferocity, roams 



Miracles operated after (Death. 149 

around cemeteries and tombs; this has 
been testified on oath by many witnesses, 
though some will not believe it The 
unfortunate Matthew Baldi ran at night 
along the high roads, howling like a fam 
ished wolf, tearing himself in a cruel man 
ner, and terrifying those who heard him 
even at a distance. His parents, who, from 
certain signs, could judge of the approach 
of the paroxysm, tried several times, but in 
vain, to bind him with strong ropes. The 
violence of the fit burst the strongest bonds, 
and the patient worked in spasms for 
several hours, after which he was so weak 
and exhausted as to be unable, for several 
days, to do anything at all. He had been, 
as we have already said, in that condition 
for five years, when some one brought from 
Sanfratello a relic of St. Benedict, for the 
consolation of his country. Amidst the 
general concourse, came Baldi with his 

13* 



1 50 Life of St. (Benedict. 

mother and wife, and with many tears they 
prayed at the foot of the altar for his cure. 
St. Benedict, propitious to their vows, pre 
sented them at the throne of the Almighty, 
and the man was radically healed, as he 
himself affirmed in the juridical information, 
nine years after his cure. 

Melchior Biondo, a goldsmith of Palermo, 
had been afflicted with a tedious malignant 
fever, from which time he suffered extreme 
pain in the lower members of his body, par 
ticularly his legs and feet, so that he could 
neither walk about nor remain at ease. 
For four months he vainly tried all human 
remedies. Then he had recourse to Heaven, 
and fervently invoked St. Francis. One 
night as he lay awake, (for he had long 
been deprived of sleep,) he seemed to him 
self to be on his bed in the church of St. 
Mary of Jesus, near the sacristy, standing 
in the door of which was a religious, whom 



Miracles operated after (Death. 151 

he easily recognized as Father Benedict, to 
whom, when alive, he had spoken several 
times. Rejoiced at the sight, the sick man 
tried to rise, but finding himself unable to 
do so, he cried: "O, Father Benedict, pray 
to God and St. Francis that I may receive 
my health." The Saint replied: "My son, 
be content. Our Lord will grant you that 
grace. 1 At these words, Melchior fell 
asleep, and when he awoke, four hours 
afterwards, he again had the same vision. 
Repeating his petition, he met the same 
response, but he added : "And what token 
do you give me, Father, that God has 
granted me this grace?" St. Benedict 
immediately blessed him three times and 
disappeared, when the sick man found 
he was cured, and arose in perfect health, 
to the astonishment and joy of his friends. 
In 1624, Palermo was ravaged by pesti 
lence. Dorninic Grimaldi, a boy of four- 



152 Life of St. (Benedict. 

teen, was attacked by it. A violent head 
ache, fever, vomiting, and, above all, a 
tumor in the thigh, were his symptoms at 
the end of three days. Sister Paula Nas- 
tasi, niece of St. Benedict, and aunt of the 
patient, having no confidence in human 
remedies, laid a picture of the Saint on the 
boy, and fervently recommended him to 
her blessed uncle. Scarcely had the pic 
ture touched him ere the symptoms were 
abated; he fell asleep, and when he awoke, 
no trace of the distemper remained. 

Anthony Forti, son of a resident of 
Palermo, had a tumor in his right thigh, 
which caused him the greatest agony. The 
art of the first surgeon having failed, a con 
sultation was called, in which it was decided, 
that on account of the malignity and depth 
of the tumor, fire and the knife were the 
only remedies, and the surgeons agreed to 
perform the operation on the following day. 



Miracles operated after (Death. 153 

The child s mother, terrified at the thought 
of such a painful remedy, procured that 
evening a piece of blessed Benedict s habit, 
which she placed on the tumor. The boy 
fell asleep, and on awaking, felt neither 
pain nor inflammation ; he arose and went 
to work. When the surgeon came, at the 
appointed hour, to perform the operation, 
and found the patient in perfect health, 
he shared in the general astonishment, and 
acknowledged the prodigy. 

Sister Catherine Torongi, a professed 
religious of the monastery of St Mary of 
Mt. Olivet, in Palermo, suffered violent 
pain for several months, and all the reme 
dies she tried failed to bring her any 
relief. She had recourse to the power from 
on high, and knowing that our Lord had 
operated many miracles through the inter 
cession of St. Benedict, she invoked him, 
and made a vow to daily recite five Pater* 



154 Life of Si. (Benedict. 

and Avesm his honor, if she were delivered 
from her suffering. Scarcely had she pro 
nounced her vow, when she passed a stone 
of considerable size, and her pain ceased. 
This state of health lasted seven months, 
and as the account of Benedict s miracles 
and virtues was being then taken in Paler 
mo, some one advised her to render juridi 
cal testimony of the favor she had received, 
and thus contribute to the glory of God 
and blessed Benedict. She replied, with an 
air of indifference, that he had performed 
many miracles, and that the relation of that 
which concerned her was unnecessary. 
At that very moment, she was attacked 
by her former pain, which seemed more 
violent than ever. Recognizing her ingrati 
tude, she renewed her vow, adding thereto 
that she would annually offer four wax 
tapers at the Saint s tomb, on the day of 
his decease, and she promised to publish 



Miracles operated after (Death. 155 

the miracle, all which she faithfully accom 
plished. The pain again ceased and re 
turned no more, as is proved by the testi 
mony of the same religious, who, twelve 
years later, confirmed her first account by 
testifying to the permanency of her cure. 
Augustin Foresta, silk manufacturer in 
Palermo, having broken a leg, had em 
ployed the best surgeons for his cure, but 
at the end of forty-five days, he was so 
lame as to be obliged to use crutches. 
Thus he remained from May until Novem 
ber, when, despairing of his cure, he caused 
himself to be taken to our Saint s tomb, 
where he, with no less fervor than confi 
dence, implored his cure. His prayer was 
immediately answered; he rose up per 
fectly well, and returned home full of joy, 
and without any crutch, publishing, as he 
went, the favor he had received less by 
his words than by tears of gratitude. In 



1 56 Life of St. (Benedict. 

memory of the prodigy, he sent to the 
Saint s tomb, a leg made of silver, and 
valued at ten piastres. 

Madame Catherine Valesia was going in 
her carriage to the church of St. Mary of 
Jesus, accompanied by her son, five years 
of age ; the child fell, and the wheel, pass 
ing over him, broke his thigh. The 
mother, deeply afflicted, yet at the same 
time full of courage and confidence, con 
tinued her route. On arriving at the 
church, she perceived that the case that 
contained St Benedict s body was being 
opened, to satisfy the devotion of some 
strangers. She gave her child to two 
religious, that they might touch the Saint s 
body with the affected member. No sooner 
was this done than the child, ceasing his 
cries and groans, began to walk, and even 
to jump with joy, as if to testify his share in 
his mother s gratitude. 



Miracles operated after <Death. 157 

Those who read the lives of the heroes 
of our holy religion, love to find therein the 
recital of those marvels which surpass the 
laws of nature, and are operated by their 
merits. Many such are to be found in the 
acts of our Saint, but we shall merely run 
over a few, lest we exceed our prescribed 
limits. Sister Bernardine Corelli, a pro 
fessed religious of the third order oi St. 
Francis, who suffered severely from hernia, 
was perfectly cured by a fragment of St 
Benedict s habit, and the like relic wrought 
the same effect on a nephew of Bernard 
Biggio, when he was reduced to the last 
extremity by small-pox. Eleanor Mattioli, 
being attacked by a complication of diseases, 
and having at the same time a dangerous 
sore in her neck, was given over by the 
physicians, but she was instantly cured by 
drinking some water, in which had been 
steeped a piece of our Saint s tunic. Her 
14 



158 Life of St. (Benedict. 

sister had been cured in the same way, a 
short time previous. 

The son of Mark Anthony Millici, when 
afflicted with incurable dropsy, was cured 
by the application of a relic of the Saint. 
Francis Musanti was cured of the same 
disease, by touching his coffin. Dorothea 
Xava, being in danger of losing one of her 
eyes, applied it to the coffin; it became 
perfectly clear, and remained so throughout 
her life. Vincent Buratini was instantly 
healed of scrofula, and Vincent Candela of 
lameness. Brigitta Bellocero, being lame 
in both her limbs, applied to them a piece 
of the Saint s tunic, and she received full 
power of them. 

Two dead children were restored to life 
through the Saint s intercession. The first, 
a son of John Mendes and Isabella Strada, 
named Charles Benedict, aged two years, 
jreturned to life miraculously, on being 



Miracles operated after (Death. 159 

blessed with a relic of the Saint. The 
second, whose parents were Marcian Cata 
lan and his wife Susanna of Sanfratello, 
was still-born, but came to life as soon as 
his mother had made a vow that, in case he 
lived, she would consecrate him to God in 
the order of St. Francis. 

Octavius Pantaleon, struck with apoplexy, 
gave no sign of life, despite all the efforts 
of the physicians, who then pronounced 
him dead. His mother made a vow to 
visit the relics of the Saint, and he began 
to revive. Elizabeth Pirnelta was cured 
of a like attack on making a vow to give 
a cloth to St Benedict s altar. He also 
heard the vows of Magdeline Vasa, who 
promtsed to give a waxen statue, if her 
child were cured of rupture. Laurentia 
Vasa, on promising to venerate his relics 
during fifteen days, was cured of an invete 
rate ulcer in the leg. Rosalia Reitano, on 



160 Life of St. Benedict. 

making a vow to enter the third order of 
St Francis, was healed of a tumor. Bai- 
tholomew Craci had an ox that was lame 
and no good for work ; he made a vow to 
employ it in the construction of the convent 
of Sanfratello, which the religious were 
then building, and the animal was cured. 
A man named Rocchi, deeply grieved at 
the death of a mule, went to our Saint s 
altar, and told his misfortune. On return- 
Ing home, he found the animal alive. But 
passing over in silence many like prodigies, 
let us only speak of two miracles chosen 
for blessed Benedict s canonization. 

Saviour Centini Capizzi, of Sanfratello, 
angry because some pigs had devastated 
his garden, took a gun to kill one of them, 
or, at least, to put them to flight He 
loaded and discharged it, but was terrified 
to hear the cries of his wife and the groans 
of his son. Pale and affrighted, he ran to 



Miracles operated after (Death. 161 

the spot, and found his son Francis mortally 
wounded by a ball which had pierced his 
neck from side to side. The surgeons of 
Sanfratello and the neighborhood hastened 
to the spot, but all decided that the injury 
was mortal, the wound being large enough 
to allow passage to respiration, food and 
drink. Who could express the father s 
grief and agony at such a catastrophe? 
Happily he thought of having recourse to 
the Father Guardian of St Francis Con 
vent, who, inspired by Heaven, took the 
relic of St. Benedict, blessed the dying man, 
and touched him with it. Immediately a 
great quantity of blood flowed from the 
wound, it closed, and no vestige of it 
remained, save a slight scar to give proof 
of the prodigy. 

Philip Scalione, another Inhabitant of 
Sanfratello, was born lame in both legs; 
being wholly unable to walk, if he wished 



1 62 Life of St. (Benedict. 

to move, he was obliged to crawl on his 
hands and knees, and even this he was not 
always able to do. He remained in that 
condition up to the age of fourteen. One 
day he heard the chant of the Reformed 
Franciscan Fathers at the translation of the 
relics of Blessed Benedict to their new 
church, and was filled with a vehement 
desire to see it. He begged his sister to 
carry him to the window, where, with his 
eyes fixed on the sacred relics, he invoked 
him of whose miracles he had heard so 
much. While praying, be suddenly beheld 
at his side a Franciscan friar, who said: 
Walk, you are cured! Recognizing the 
servant of God, the young man, animated 
with lively faith, tried to wall;, and found 
he could do so, without any difficulty. 
With a loud voice he published the instanta 
neous miracle wrought for the glory of 
God and blessed Benedict; he went to the 



Miracles operated after (Death. 163 

road and showed himself to the assistants; 
never was there a more beautiful mingling 
of tears and acclamations of joy, than those 
addressed to the precious relics and the 
boy so miraculously cured. He related all 
the circumstances of the prodigy, and, by 
his tender acts of gratitude, retarded the 
procession, which had become a veritable 
triumphal march. We can easily imagine 
how much the devotion to the Saint must 
have been augmented. We shall terminate 
this chapter by recommending ourselves to 
the Saint, as those unfortunates of whom it 
is written: They have feet, and they do not 
walk, because they know not how to walk 
in the path of virtue and justice. 





CHAPTER XV 

THE DEVOTION TO ST. BENEDICT* 

LTHOUGH the body of our Saint had 
been placed in the common burial- 
ground of the religious, as was re 
quired by submission to the holy rites of 
the Church, nevertheless, the concourse, the 
homage and prayers at his tomb, as we have 
already seen, lasted during four months. 
Three years after his death, when the tomb 
was opened, the precious body was found 
intact and having an agreeable odor. On 
the feast of the Ascension, which fell on 
the 6th of May in the year 1592, it was 
removed to a little niche in the sacristy, on 
which was placed the following inscription : 
164 



(Devotion to St. (Benedict. 165 

This man was really blessed (benedictus) 
Before God, both in his life and by his name. 
He died on the eve of the Nones of April, 1589. 

But as the devotion, which was greatly 
augmented on that occasion, permitted the 
sacristy to be closed only as much as the 
people wished, they began to think of 
removing the holy body to the church. 
The reputation of Father Benedict s mira 
cles and sanctity had spread into Spain, and 
they there heard of the intended transla 
tion. King Philip III encouraged by his 
letters the execution of the project, and 
gave fifteen hundred piastres for the silver 
shrine to enclose the venerable body, which 
was removed on the 3d of October, 1611, 
and placed in the monument in the chapel 
of the Blessed Virgin, where, for the public 
satisfaction, it was left visible, yet, at the 
same time, protected by a covering of 
crystal. 



1 66 Life of St. (Benedict. 

Our Lord, by new graces, deigned to 
manifest how pleasing to Him was the 
honor rendered His servant. This was 
proved not only by the pictures, tapers, ex 
votos and crutches left there by those who 
were cured, but more by the continual 
prodigies which he operated, and the joyful 
cries of those who had been the subjects 
of them; in the church and around it, and 
throughout the city of Palermo resounded 
the praises and benedictions of the Saint. 

The long road which leads from the city 
to that church was sometimes so obstructed 
by the crowds of the faithful going to 
implore the Saint s intercession, or thank 
him for it, that it was difficult to pass. All 
Palermo was joyful; and its people felici 
tated themselves on having been the first to 
honor Saint Benedict, and to see devotion 
to him authorized; for scarcely had he died, 
ere the city was filled with his images 



(Devotion to St. (Benedict. 167 

crowned with the aureola, the symbol of 
sanctity; they were to be found in the 
cabins of the poor, in the shops, drawing- 
rooms, cabinets, oratories, churches, and 
even on altars. In every house his pic 
ture was venerated; lamps were lit before 
it, tapers burned, flowers were placed in 
chambers or cells which served as particu 
lar oratories, and at the foot of his statues 
and images they placed his name with the 
epithet of Saint or Blessed. 

On the 24th of April, 1652, the city of 
Palermo, having honored Benedict with the 
title of Blessed in a public act, wished to 
choose him formally as its protector. It 
was decided that, on the anniversary of his 
death, the senate should go in state to the 
church of St. Mary of Jesus, and offer at 
the Saint s tomb fourteen torches of white 
wax, each weighing six pounds. His coun 
try also honored him as blessed: and the 



1 68 Life of St. (Benedict. 

people of Sanfratello went in procession 
before his statue and relics, which were 
brought with great pomp from Palermo for 
the consolation of his native place. Mes 
sina, Trepani, Piazza, Girgenti, Melazzo, 
and nearly the whole of Sicily, joined in 
those honors, before the Holy Roman 
Church had spoken of that inhabitant of 
heaven. This devotion passed from Sicily 
into Spain, when John Dominic Rubiano, 
a friend of our Saint, sent a relic to the 
Duchess of Modica in 1607. The graces 
obtained by this means, engaged the cities 
of Granada, Cadiz, Cordova, Arces, and 
Valladolid to honor St. Benedict. Their 
example was followed by other important 
town and villages in the kingdom. They 
venerated the pictures of the Servant of 
God, erected altars under his name, ap 
pointed festivals and lauded his virtues in 
the pulpit; the most zealous and learned 



^Devotion to St. (Benedict. 169 

bishops, far from making any opposition, 
extended and propagated the devotion. 

His fame speedily passed from Spain to 
Portugal, where he was designated as the 
holy black. The Christian negroes of Lis 
bon established a confraternity under his 
name, and they celebrated his feast every 
year with great devotion. Thirty years 
after our Saint s death, the truly Catholic 
King Philip III, assisted at their procession, 
being then at Lisbon, in quality of heir of 
Philip II, his father, and the claims of the 
Empress Elizabeth, his mother, to the crown 
of Portugal, left vacant in 1578 by the 
death of Don Sebastian, on the coast of 
Africa. In the West Indies, no saint is so 
greatly honored as St Benedict. 

An Indian of the town of St. Joseph in 

New Spain, in the diocese of Mexico, 

deposed under oath to what we have said 

above, and added : " The devotion of those 

5 



1 70 Life of St. (Benedict. 

people is shown, not only in erecting altars 
and chapels under his name, in instituting 
processions in his honor, in singing his 
praises, causing masses to be celebrated 
and bells to be rung; in sumptuously illu 
minating the church, and in other prac 
tices customary in honoring the saints ; but 
I have particularly remarked that in New 
Spain, when they celebrated the feasts of 
St. Benedict of Palermo, they had music of 
three kinds, that is, Spanish, Indian, and 
Ethiopian, so that the Christian Ethiopians 
of those parts, who, although far from their 
country, might say, like the captive Jews in 
Babylon : How can we sing in a foreign 
land? testified their joy in America by 
singing and playing their national music, 
as if they were in Ethiopia. Yet more, on 
the Saint s feast, there were discourses, 
sermons and panegyrics in his honor; I 
myself have made them in the port and 



(Devotion to St. (Benedict. 171 

city of Vera Cruz. Finally, those Ethio 
pians, although poor, manifest their devo 
tion by contributing to the expenses of the 
festivals and public devotion to St. Bene 
dict." What would those poor blacks say 
of our economy regarding such things? 

This beautiful testimony is corroborated 
by many others, given in the processes; 
hence it is proved that in Mexico, in the 
city of Vera Cruz, and again in Brazil at 
the Bay of All Saints, at its metropolis, in 
Peru, Lima and other parts of Southern 
and Central America, our holy negro is 
solemnly honored. But however great 
may be the devotion of the whites, that of 
the blacks far surpasses it. They regard 
St. Benedict as being of their nation, and, 
according to their expression, of their kind. 
Now, in reflecting on the devotion which is 
continually rendered to him in that part 
of the world, one can but admire Divine 



172 Life of St. (Benedict* 

Providence crowning the zeal of his ser 
vant, who on being questioned by the reli 
gious as to the subject of his prayers, 
replied : I pray to God, and I make suppli 
cation for the Indies. 

Let, then, those pretended strong minds 
who laugh at the judgments of the people, 
regarding them as destitute of judgment 
and common sense, as fickle and inconstant, 
who treat their zeal as folly, and their sen 
timents as crude and perverted ideas, let 
them dare to propose to us the honors 
rendered to the dissolute Emperor Claudius, 
and with them compare not our apotheoses, 
but the declarations of the Church which 
assures us that the heroes of the Catholic 
faith enjoy the beatitude which God has 
promised to His servants. Let them, then, 
find in those pious pomps only error, incon 
stancy, confusion, disorder and vice; let 
them, if they will, count the nations that 



(Devotion to St. (Benedict. 173 

venerate the holy negro, and let them 
admire how peoples, separated by vast 
distances, and living in different climes, are 
united in one sentiment; let them remark 
that it has continued and increased through 
out two cemuries. Let them weigh the 
deeds, the virtues, the indisputable prodi 
gies on which the Church has based her 
decision, and examine the rigorous pro 
cesses, the searching examinations, the 
objections urged and answered. Let them 
behold the distinguished personages who 
figure in the crowds that honor the Saint, 
or among those who gave their testimony 
under oath in the process of the Saint s 
canonization. 

The apotheoses ol the pagans were the 
privilege only of a noble and formidable 
race, of military talents, or benefits bestowed 
on the people. They were the fruit of 
policy or ambition, as Pliny remarked in 



1 7 A Life of St. (Benedict. 

Trajan s panegyric ; they took place under 
the auspices of divinities impure, vicious, 
and deceitful. But what other support than 
that of heroic virtue, and the guardianship 
of Heaven could be that of an humble lay- 
brother, of low birth, first a farmer, after 
wards a hermit, and finally occupied as 
cook in a poor convent, in which he had no 
other prerogatives than profound abjection 
and absolute poverty? The pagan cere 
mony required only one witness who should 
attest he had seen the candidate fly up to 
heaven. St. Justin, martyr, assures us of 
this in his discourse to Antoninus Pius. 
We know that the apotheosis of Romulus 
was performed on the sole testimony of 
Julius Proculus, according to Plutarch. Now 
let us enumerate the processes instituted 
for the beatification of our Saint. In that 
of Palermo, in 1594, they examined on his 
heroic virtues, ninety-seven witnesses, who 



(Devotion to St. (Benedict. 175 

had nearly all seen what they testified; and 
In the second, which was made in 1620, they 
heard sixty-eight witnesses : five years later 
there was another examination on the vir 
tues of the Saint, in which one hundred and 
twenty witnesses were heard. In the year 
1626, another process was instituted at 
Sanfratello, the Saint s native place, and 
although it was not a large place, seventy- 
seven rendered testimony in his favor. But 
were one to collect the irrefutable testimo 
nies of the vices and follies of those 
emperors and empresses whom the pagans 
exalted to the rank of gods and goddesses- 
the proofs would be numberless. 





CHAPTER XVL 

VIOOFS OF BENEDICT S VIRTUES. 

HE first distinguishing characteristic of 
the Christian, is his practising the 
three theological virtues, which are so 
intimately connected, that one is not perfect 
without the others. St. Paul says, that 
"faith without charity is dead," and St 
Augustin, speaking of hope, adds, "How 
can one hope who does not believe ?" St. 
Benedict s faith shone on his countenance 
when he approached the Holy Eucharist, 
that mystery in which virtue inflamed by 
love triumphs, according to the Angelic 
Doctor. To consider these three virtues 
united in Benedict, it suffices to recall those 
marvellous multiplications of bread and 
176 



(proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 177 

wine, in favor of the poor and hungry, that 
food prepared by the hands of angels, and 
that blood squeezed from the little brush 
that had cleansed the vessels ; what more 
calculated to renew our admiration? 

If we contemplate his faith in particular, 
without taking into consideration the mira 
culous production of fishes before men 
tioned, we have another proof of it in the 
following example. 

Once, when passing along the banks of 
the River Oreto, St. Benedict met a poor 
fisherman, the father of seven children. 
This man, who lived by the sale of his fish, 
had labored all day and caught nothing. 
Moved by the father s distress, Benedict, 
with lively faith, blessed the net, and it 
immediately became so full that they could 
not draw it up. Thus was renewed the 
miracle wrought by our Lord at the Sea of 
Tiberias; thus were verified the divine 



178 Life of St. (Benedict. 

promises of the Saviour, who said that faith 
should have His power on earth. 

Let us here add, for our own advantage, 
what the Saint said to a professor of the 
ology, who had recourse to him to be 
delivered from temptations against faith: 
Father > you are a theologian and professor, 
but I answer you in charity, when you are 
assailed by that temptation, make on your 
heart the sign of the Cross, and say the 
Credo ; God will deliver you from it. The 
religious followed his advice, and was freed 
from trouble. 

The virtue of hope holds the middle 
place. Two extremes are opposed to it, 
viz., presumption and despair. Let us here 
give an example of both, since we have had 
in his prophecies and promises many 
proofs of Benedict s heroic hope. A noble 
man recommended to the Saint a very 
pressing affair, having great confidence in 



(Proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 179 

the power of his intercession before God. 
Inspired by heaven, Benedict thus ques 
tioned him: What is the state of your soul 
before God? The nobleman was offend 
ed, and excusing his presumption on the 
grounds of human frailty and the goodness 
of God, was not disposed to moderate it. 
The saint reproached him, and added a 
salutary correction, counseling him to pro 
portion his hopes to his merits, and sending 
him away thus humbled, promised to recom 
mend his affair to God. 

On the contrary, when a poor country 
woman once came disconsolate about a theft 
she had committed, and said: "Alas, my 

Father, my sins deserve hell! I fear 

for my salvation Ah! there is no 

mercy for me. ... If you but knew" here 
the Saint interrupted her and encouraged 
her to put her confidence in the goodness 
of God; then he led her to the church, 



1 80 Life of St. Benedict. 

begged a confessor to hear her, and that 
soul recovered the virtue of hope. Thus it 
was that our Saint knew how, by banishing 
presumption and despair, to show the sure 
path that avoids both extremes. 

We have already remarked, in all his 
actions, the marvellous effects of his ardent 
charity towards God and the neighbor. 
Love, either divine or human, is always 
distinguished by the same characteristics. 
To speak frequently of the object beloved, 
to change color, to be inflamed, to mourn, 
to be offended when it is offended, to seek 
after it with anxiety, such are its indubita 
ble signs. We find all these in St. Benedict 
with regard to God; everything in him 
manifested the fire which inflamed his heart 
for the Divine Majesty; he spoke only of 
God, and his countenance often became so 
inflamed, that its radiance illuminated the 
darkness of the night. He sought God in 



Proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 181 

everything, and resented the offences com 
mitted against Him. This interior fire was 
so ardent, that it sometimes deprived the 
Saint of the use of his senses. On one 
occasion, some persons came to the convent 
to enjoy a little innocent recreation, and 
wishing to prepare some food they had 
brought with them from the city, they sent 
a young man, one of their company, to the 
kitchen to ask for some live coals. The 
Saint, whose heart was inflamed with fire 
of a very different kind, put his hands into 
the grate, and took therefrom as much fire 
as filled a vessel which he presented to the 
young man. It is easy to imagine the 
astonishment of those who beheld the action, 
and of those, also, who heard of it. 

His charity for the neighbor led him to be 
ever occupied in favor of the unfortunate 
and the distressed. He gave salutary advice, 
distributed alms, often taken from his own 

16 



1 82 Life of St. (Benedict. 

scanty nourishment; he gave instructions; 
the learned themselves received light from 
him ; he consoled the unfortunate, served 
prisoners and the sick in hospitals ; he 
blessed the fields, dispersed insects, cured 
the sick, and his love for his fellow beings 
led him even to recall the dead to life, by 
his efficacious prayers. Among a thousand 
spiritual maladies healed by him, we may 
speak of a young debauchee, who was the 
sorrow of his parents, the disgrace of his 
family, the scandal of his friends, and a 
scourge to society. Although one so deeply 
wounded generally complains of the sur 
geon, and impatiently rejects the cure of 
his wounds, nevertheless, Father Benedict 
acted with so much tact and delicacy, that 
he stopped the young man on the brink of 
the precipice; the sinner acknowledged 
himself vanquished, conceived a horror of 
libertinism, abandoned balls and dances, 



<Proofs oj (Benedict s Virtues. 183 

and became a good son and a useful citi 
zen; he always protested that he should 
owe his salvation, under God, to the good 
religious, Father Benedict. 

We shall say but a word about the car 
dinal virtues, which our Saint possessed in 
perfection. On account of his prudence he 
was first appointed Guardian, and after- 
terwards, Vicar and Master of Novices. 
This virtue directed his words, his designs, 
his deliberations. He exercised it more 
especially in conversation, and when there 
was question of correcting or preventing 
disorders. Being one day in company with 
a person of distinction, who was addicted 
to detraction, and finding that he was 
speaking ill of another, Benedict inter 
rupted him, saying, "Excuse me, Sir, 
excuse me if I go now, for were I to 
remain here longer, I should not be able to 
prevent an evil which might happen." It 



1 84 Life of St. (Benedict. 

was easy to know what he meant, namely, 
that the evil he dreaded was the detrac 
tion already begun, and the bad habit was 
corrected. 

Benedict s justice was not less heroic. 
This it was that cast him on his knees, 
when vicar, before a novice whom he had 
severely reproved, when he afterwards 
learned that the fault had not been such 
as he had been informed. But the greatest 
proof of his heroism in this virtue, was given 
when his brother Mark, having committed 
a homicide, was in prison awaiting the 
death due to his crime. Among the many 
persons who felt deep sorrow on this 
account, not the least were the Reformed 
Religious. It may be easily understood 
that it would be no slight pain to them to 
see a person, who, although a secular, was 
brother to one of their members, led to 
execution. 



Proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 185 

As Mark Anthony Colonna, then Viceroy 
of Sicily, was very fond of Benedict, the 
Guardian commanded him to go and 
recommend the condemned Mark to his 
mercy, and beg the favor of his protection. 
Benedict obeyed and went to the palace 
of the Viceroy, who asked what he thought 
he ought to do. The Saint replied : My lord, 
although Mark is my brother, I tell you to do 
justice. The Guardian having reproved 
him for this answer, Benedict calmly re 
plied, that one should never ask anything 
contrary to justice. The Saint s companion, 
who had heard all, assured him that the 
Viceroy, much edified at recognizing in Bene 
dict a prof ound sincerity and great zeal for 
justice, granted Mark his pardon. 

Our Saviour has depicted justice to us 
in the following sentence: Render to Casar 
the things that are Casals, and to God the 
things are God s. These divine words 



1 86 Life of St. (Benedict. 

condemn those, who, like the unprofitable 
servant, having received talents, do not 
employ them for God, and live in useless- 
ness; so that, of such a one it might be 
said at his death : He had not a long life, but 
he existed a long time. It was not so with 
St. Benedict; he lived for everybody, he 
made everybody a sharer in his heavenly 
gifts of healing, knowledge, prophecy, pene 
tration of hearts, tears and prayers. 

Justice inspired his exhortations to respect 
and obedience towards legitimate superiors. 
He felt great pain at hearing any serious 
complaint against the sovereign and his 
ministers, he closed his ears against unjust 
complaints, sustained authority by his dis 
courses, showed that the imputations were, 
perhaps, uncertain and without foundation, 
or, at least, excusable through some un 
known motive, and that, consequently, the 
allegation was unjust. 



(Proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 187 

Temperance, so familiar to St. Benedict, 
is, according to the holy Fathers, the pre 
server of all virtues; and according to this 
sentiment, the ancient philosophers said, 
The temperate man conceives nothing evil, 
We have seen this in our Saint s life; but 
what gives a better idea of his perfection in 
this virtue, is the gentle reproach which he, 
one day, made to a religious cleric, who, in 
placing on the altar some vases of fresh 
and odoriferous flowers, was continually 
smelling them, and with such a passion that 
he evidently failed in temperance. St. 
Benedict reproved him, and showed him 
how easy it is to pass from an innocent 
enjoyment to a vicious sensibility. He 
afterwards confirmed this, when two of the 
religious disputed whether one could sin 
grievously by the sense of smell. Although 
this does not always happen, one may, 
nevertheless, say with St. Augustin: // is a 



1 88 Life of St. 

little thing, but he who despises small things, 
says the Scripture, shall fall by little and 
little. Now, temperance prevents that fall. 
St. Benedict practised fortitude from the 
time that he sold his oxen, distributed the 
price among the poor, bade adieu to his 
parents, and withdrew into the desert 
How surprising it was to behold his joyous 
appearance, not only amidst fatigue, fasts 
and penances, but also when overwhelmed 
by tribulations, injuries, and ill-treatment! 
The sacristan, weary at having to call him 
so often by the bell to attend to the 
demands of the afflicted, finally began to 
insult our Saint, and load him with injuries. 
On the first occasion, which was not long 
in presenting itself, the same sacristan, 
more indignant than ever, dared to call 
him, in the presence of several persons, a 
dog of a slave. But Benedict always pre 
served a serene countenance whether he 



(proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 189 

called him an ass or slammed the door in 
his face with a thousand affronts; he did 
even more; although he was the injured 
party, he humbly asked the sacristan s 
pardon for the trouble he had unwillingly 
given him. The Saint was not of a cold 
and insensible temperament, and if he bore 
everything, it was only through his heroic 
humility. On one occasion, a young liber 
tine, passing from insolence to affronts, 
loaded our Saint with insults, which the 
modesty of the historians would not allow 
them to set down in detail; such was the 
violence our Saint did himself to repress 
his just indignation, that his eyes became 
inflamed, he was seized with trembling, and 
blood burst from his nostrils, but he kept 
silence. 

But it was from the demons that he 
endured the worst assaults. Their attacks 
dated from his entrance into the hermitage, 



190 Life of St. (Benedick 

and the most dangerous proceeded from 
the public eulogiums and homages which 
were drawn upon Benedict by the prodigies 
which Heaven operated by his hand, and 
the singular gifts and favors bestowed on 
him by God. But his profound humility, sus 
tained by the virtue of fortitude, was always 
victorious over the enemies of his salvation. 
He himself acknowledged to some religious 
that the infernal spirits discharged their 
rage by injuring his body, appearing to him 
in time of prayer, and cruelly ill-treating 
him. Far from being troubled, he con 
quered them and covered them with shame. 
Sometimes, he was seen, when in prayer, to 
stretch out his hands, to resist violently, 
and to spit in contempt: when asked his 
reason for doing so, he replied: It is 
against the demons who tempt us. Such was 
the empire he obtained over them, that 
several times, during his life, he expelled 



(Proofs of (Benedict s Virtues. 191 

them from the bodies of the possessed. 
He exercised the same power after death, 
according to the testimony of two excellent 
writers: Father Tognoletto, and Father 
John Alphonsus of Mandrisio, Definitor 
General. " Not only," say they, " was this 
servant of God the scourge of the demons 
after his death (for it would take too long 
to relate how many possessed he has 
delivered, and does still deliver) but during 
life he operated those cures, in proof of 
the victory he had won over the infernal 
spirits." That virtue of fortitude, the 
mother of eleven millions of martyrs, as the 
Church counts, according to Genebrard s 
calculation, is founded on that NO which 
the martyrs uttered when tyrants urged 
them to idolatry. That NO which the mar 
tyrs expressed by a negative gesture, 
according to Seneca, Benedict also said 
without opening his lips. His life, so just 



192 Life of St. Benedict. 

and regular, closed the entrance to every 
unlawful demand. To him might be 
applied Cicero s eulogy on Cato : O happy 
mortal, of whom no one may demand that 
which is evil 





CHAPTER XVII. 

OF THE FRUIT THAT MAY BE DRAWN FROM THIS LIFE. 

I 

HE first object we should propose to 
ourselves in reading the Lives of the 
Saints, is to render glory to God, and 
procure our own spiritual advantage. To 
obtain this second end, for the first is evi 
dent, it is necessary to compare our actions 
with those of St. Benedict, and to correct 
the great difference we find between them ; 
but such a comparison would lead us far 
beyond the limits we have prescribed our 
selves. Let us, then, confine ourselves to 
one single product of the evangelical seed: 
it is that, the want of which makes itself 
most deeply felt in our age, it is Faith. 
We do not speak now to those who wholly 
? 



194 Life of St. (Benedict. 

abstain from this necessary nourishment 
of the faithful, but to those who, through 
their own fault, have allowed it to become 
weak. We speak to those who should 
hear us, in this time when that virtue is 
most necessary. 

Let us now imitate the holy apostles in 
that point in which we fail to resemble 
them. Their bark was assailed by a violent 
tempest, yet Jesus slept tranquilly at the 
stern; greatly troubled, they awoke Him, 
and with pallid countenances and terrified 
hearts, they crowded round their Master, 
crying: Lord, save us; we perish. The 
Lord awoke, and before appeasing the fury 
of the winds and waves, addressed them a 
reproach, upon which St. Basil, Bishop of 
Seleucia, comments in the following beauti- 
tiful terms: What then is that terror which 
casts you down, which reduces you to the 
extremity in which I behold you? Your fear 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life, 195 

accuses the want of faith which produces it. 
Troubled interiorly and exteriorly by the 
agitation of the sea, you liken yourselves 
to inanimate things which surrender them 
selves to the first occupant. Your bark is 
still on the waters ; she is still intact, yet 
your faith has already suffered shipwreck, 
it is already submerged! Hence you only 
think where you are, and not with whom 
you are. O ! why is not your faith strong 
enough to render you intrepid in the midst 
of the waves, and firm as a rock in the 
midst of the waters? O words worthy of 
the Sovereign Master! concludes the holy 
bishop, He desires that faith be stronger than 
all created things, and that in the presence of 
faith the soul never gives way to despair. 
When we read and reflect on sacred, and 
even on profane history, we clearly dis 
cover, in the ocean of human revolutions, 
that God presides over all, as a Pilot sove- 



196 Life of St. (Benedict. 

reignly qualified, who makes the partial 
disorder conduce to the general order. 
But very few persons comprehend this. 
Our mind is so feeble, says St Chrysostom, 
the evils that trouble us are so great, that, 
instead of placing our confidence in the 
infinite wisdom of God, we, under His 
very eyes, regard ourselves as lost and 
swallowed up, although, frequently, it hap 
pens that a turn of the helm brings us into 
port. Have faith, said our Saint. The 
Saviour sometimes seems to sleep, but He 
never sleeps; He beholds the tempest, 
and, at the proper time, will dissipate its 
fury. He desires that, in the meantime, 
the sailors disburden themselves, and cast 
into the sea whatever might submerge the 
vessel. It is true that our faith must not 
be separated from hope and charity. Con 
fidence should animate our prayers, divine 
love must accompany our thanksgiving for 



Fruits <firawn from this Life. 197 

the benefits we have received. According 
to the explanation of St. Chrysostom in 
the Sixth Homily on the Philippians, Saint 
Paul does not wish that in our prayers ive 
confine ourselves to a single demand; but he 
also recommends that we add thereto thanks 
and acknowledgments for the favors we have, 
already received; for how can one make new 
requests^ when he has not acknowledged 
graces already conferred? 

This virtue, the first among those called 
theological, should always, but particularly 
in our days, be accompanied by the virtue 
of fortitude. To obtain this fortitude, St. 
Benedict, after the example of the Patri 
arch St. Francis, especially invoked the 
Archangel St. Michael. And as this arch 
angel, in warring against the powers of 
earth and hell, incessantly repeats, Who is 
like to Godf Quis est Deus? so should we 
constantly confess our faith in God, fly 



1 98 Life of St. (Benedict. 

from the impious, from the assemblies of 
vanity, from pestilential discourses and con 
versations. If we be faithful to do this, 
with the help of grace, we shall merit to 
have applied to us that oracle of our Divine 
Redeemer: Whoever shall confess me before 
men, I will confess him before my Father 
who is in heaven. 

To obtain from the divine goodness, 
these virtues and all others, our Saint 
implored the protection of the most holy 
Virgin, through whom, he acknowledged, 
he had received all graces. He attributed 
to the merits of Mary the prodigies which 
God operated through his means, and gave 
her all the glory of them; he referred to 
her all those who desired to obtain favors; 
to relieve the afflicted he used the oil 
from the lamp lit before her image. But it 
would be doing an injury to our readers to 
engage them, by Benedict s example, to 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life. 199 

have recourse, in their necessities, to the 
Mother of God. Who is it, among the 
faithful, who does not take refuge in the 
bosom of his Mother? 

We may recommend the invocation of 
the Prince of the Apostles, to whom our 
Saint had a particular devotion, because 
the Church was founded on him, and our 
Lord Himself prayed that Peter s faith 
should never fail. 

To devotion to those powerful interces 
sors to obtain that firmness which we have 
admired in our Saint s life, and his perse 
verance in flying the venemous bite of the 
declared enemies of religion, let us add 
devotion to St. Benedict himself, to gain 
this precious gift. He continually implored 
God that His holy law might be spread 
throughout the Indies; certainly, he will 
not refuse his intercession for what we 
desire. We will then invoke him in tempta- 



aoo Life of St. (Benedict. 

tions, doubts, trials of mind, and dangers 
to which we may be exposed through the 
frailty of our flesh. 

And as our misery makes us sometimes 
(God grant it be not always) have recourse 
to the saints, only in our temporal necessi 
ties, making little account of those that are 
spiritual, it is well to recall to our minds 
what we have seen in this history. St. 
Benedict s first occupation was agriculture. 
Afterwards, when invested with the habit 
of St. Francis, we have seen him bless the 
fields and the fruits of the earth, with great 
advantage to those who had asked that 
benediction. In him, then, we behold an 
other protector of cultivated fields, who 
will banish therefrom whatever might be 
hurtful to the fruits that are for our nour 
ishment. 

But that St. Benedict may hear the fer 
vent prayers we address him before the 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life. 201 

altar, let us frequently remind him of his 
good father, who brought such a blessing 
on the goods confided by Manasseri to his 
care. In the Memoirs, there is no mention 
of the death of our Saint s father and 
mother; the blamable negligence of those 
times has deprived us of much knowledge 
on this and many other points relating to 
our Saint. Nevertheless, prudence leads 
us to hope that those good parents, so 
pious and so virtuous, are enjoying the 
sight of God with their son ; and what fully 
persuades us of this is, that, if the Saint 
prayed daily for sinners and for distant 
countries, with how much greater ardor 
would he have prayed for those to whom 
he owed his life and holy education ! He 
will hear more willingly the prayers ad 
dressed to him in public and particular 
necessities, if we remind him how his father 
lost his employment through the malice of 



202 Life of St. (Benedict. 

others, and how, when reinstated, he caused 
the renewal of those divine blessings that 
had been suspended. Let us learn, thence, 
to suffer patiently the effects of men s malice, 
and not to doubt that we shall receive the 
crown of our patience: let us also hope 
that we shall see dissipated, even in this 
life, the clouds that obscure virtuous actions. 
We have already seen, that when St. 
Benedict threw holy water over the gardens 
and vines attacked by destructive insects, 
which threatened their total ruin, not only 
were those insects killed or dispersed, but 
the farmers beheld the ruined plants 
revive and bear fruit. To augment the 
confidence of the faithful in our Saint s 
intercession, for a benefit as important as 
the fruitfulness of the ground, we shall 
prove from the processes what we have 
said, and shall choose for this end, the testi 
mony of a lay-brother, also called Brother 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life. 203 

Benedict. In his deposition he says: "I 
know that many proprietors of gardens, 
contiguous to the Convent of St. Mary of 
Jesus, suffered, according to the seasons, 
much loss in the fruits and vegetables 
injured by the worms; those persons came 
to the convent and begged the superiors to 
send Father Benedict to bless their gardens. 
I accompanied him several times, and was 
witness to the welcome that both masters 
and laborers gave him. Father Benedict 
went everywhere sprinkling holy water; I 
heard the thanks that were rendered him. 
They gratefully acknowledged, that, thanks 
to his blessing, not only were the worms 
destroyed, but the productiveness of the 
ground was increased and the harvests 
were more abundant." We may also 
remark, that the animals obeyed and re 
spected our Saint, and when he dwelt in 
the hermitage, the wild beasts fled from it, 



2O4 Life of St. (Benedict. 

leaving the field free to the demons, who 
tormented him during his whole life. 

Those persons, then, who possess prop 
erty subject to the irregularities of the 
seasons, and the ravages of insects, would 
do well to place their lands under St. 
Benedict s protection. Thus may they 
hope to obtain, by his merits, the benedic 
tion of Heaven; but that they may be the 
more certain of gaining it, let them imitate 
his excellent father, who never refused alms 
to any one, and who, by this means, multi 
plied the goods confided to his care, which 
goods also diminished when he ceased to 
give alms. From this fact, spoken of in 
the beginning of this work, we may draw 
another fruit, which is, after the example of 
the pious Christopher, our Saint s father, 
to suffer the attacks of envy and malignity, 
and to count securely on the just recom 
pense of our Christian actions, especially 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life. 205 

of our effective compassion for the poor, as 
also to hope that calumnies shall be cleared 
up, even in this life. 

The sick persons healed by this servant 
of God, during his life, were innumerable, 
as we have already shown. But as God, 
in His goodness, grants to some of His 
elect a special virtue for curing certain 
diseases belonging to this vale of tears, as 
we see in Sts. Anthony, Blaise, Andrew 
Avellino and many others, so He was 
pleased to attach the cure of certain mala 
dies to the particular intercession of St. 
Benedict the Negro. These are sciatica, 
catarrh, hernia, and headache, which the 
Saint healed by prayer and the sign of the 
cross. To justify and increase the confi 
dence of those thus afflicted, we shall quote 
the testimony of Father Andrew of Calta- 
girone, who deposed in the process at 

Palermo in 1594, in the following terms: 
ti 



2o6 Life of St. (Benedick 

"Father Benedict laid his hand upon them, 
and they were instantly cured, particularly 
those who had hernia, sciatica, catarrh, 
headache, etc. Those sick persons begged 
Father Benedict to recite a prayer over 
them ; he did so, and their cure was effected 
on the instant." 

To engage our Saint to aid us, and obtain 
the graces we need, we must follow the 
advice he gave to all the afflicted: Have 
faith in the Blessed Virgin ; she will cure 
you; doubt not but she will console you. 
Thus it was, that, as we have already 
remarked, he attributed to the Mother of 
God all his marvellous cures, and concealed 
himself from the sight of those who were 
witness of the most striking wonders, lest 
they should refer the honor thereof to him. 

Finally, we should imitate, as far as in 
our power, the virtues of this Christian 
hero. To this end let us propose to 



Fruits <Drawn from this Life. 207 

strengthen solidly our faith, at this time 
when Lucifer redoubles his efforts for the 
destruction of the only true faith, which, 
despite, all his endeavors, shall subsist for 
ever. Let us also, like St. Benedict, pray 
for infidels. Alas! in order to find them, 
it is not necessary to go to the Indies; they 
are around us, and may be easily recog 
nized by their exterior : hence the gift of 
penetrating hearts, which our Saint pos 
sessed, would be almost useless now, since 
the fool says not in his heart alone that 
there is no God, but says it with uplifted 
head, as he looks for applause from his 
blinded proselytes. 

Addressing ourselves to them, yet from 
a distance, so as to avoid their poisonous 
breath, let us ask them for those social 
goods so vaunted by the delightful system 
of nature, and in which they place man s 
happiness; let us compare them with the 



208 Life of St. (Benedict. 

benefits produced by the piety of one ser 
vant of God, of that God, whom the philo 
sophers of our day, so plunged in the mire 
of materialism as to be like almost to the 
brutes, dare to treat as a cruel and 
malevolent spirit. In fact, refusing all 
relations with the infinite goodness of God, 
they are not ashamed to rank themselves 
with the brutes, either by raising these to 
their material sphere, or by debasing 
themselves to the animal sphere. But, 
since they make themselves equal only to 
dogs or cows, how can they judge of the 
miracles which God, by means of His ser 
vants, operates for the good of the neigh 
bor ? In the system of matter, or, what is 
just the same, of men-brutes, those miracles 
would be esteemed only the effects of 
nature, still unknown. We may say to 
those materialistic philosophers : Your zeal 
is directed only to the advantage of 



Fruits (Drawn from this Life. 209 

humanity. You attribute to nature all 
those precious advantages, which we Chris 
tians call miracles, but you are not con 
cerned about your ignorance of their causes. 
In our human nature there is no lack of 
evils and necessities, which your zeal should 
made it your province to remedy. Why, 
then, in the wish to soothe those sorrows, 
why do you not seek to acquire the know 
ledge of which, according to your own 
avowal, you are destitute ? why do you not 
employ for the public good those means, 
which, according to you, nature indicates? 
Let us come to detail. If our Saint, either 
by the sign of the cross or by the imposi 
tion of hands, restored sight to the blind 
and cured the lame, why do not you do 
the like, through those happy combinations 
which you are pleased to call natural? 
Why do not you go through cities and 
hospitals, contradicting St. Benedict s mira- 

18* 



2io Life of St. (Benedict. 

cles by setting nature at work ? If, inde 
pendently of the sign of the cross and the 
imposition of hands, it is necessary also to 
be Christians, for reasons of which you are 
ignorant, you should become such, in view 
of the public good, the object of your zeal. 
But remark that there are no true Chris 
tian materialists. Consequently, instead of 
restoring sight to the blind, through those 
causes which are concealed from you, you 
would lose your own. Most certainly you 
will not deign to reply to an historian, who 
is not a philosopher like yourselves. There 
fore, with my equals, I go to ask of St. 
Benedict a miracle more striking than those 
he has effected, which is to give you all 
reasonable minds and right sense, such as 
God restored to Nabuchodonozor ; and cer 
tainly the doing so will not be an effect of 
nature, 

BND. 




LITANY 

OF 



ST. BENEDICT OF SANFRATELLO. 







Lord, have mercy on us. 

Christ, have mercy on us. 

Lord, have mercy on us. 

O Father, who art the God of heaven, 

O Son, Redeemer of the world, 

O Holy Spirit, who art God, 

Holy Trinity, one God, 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, 

^s^ 

St Benedict of Sanfratello, 

St Benedict, who wast consecrated to 

God in thy youth, 
St Benedict, model of sweetness, 

211 



g 



212 Litany of St. (Benedict. 

St Benedict, who didst despise all 
temporal goods, 

St Benedict, devoted to the cross of 
Jesus Christ, 

St. Benedict, ravished in Jesus cruci 
fied, 

St Benedict, endowed with discern 
ment of spirits. 

St Benedict, who, in the name of God, 
and by thy faith, didst heal all mala 
dies, 

St Benedict, faithful observer ot pov- ~ 
erty of heart, 

St. Benedict, victim most agreeable 
to God, 

St Benedict, ever devoted to fasting 
and mortification, 

St. Benedict, patron of farmers, 

St. Benedict, ever attentive to those 
who invoke thee in their pressing 
necessities. 



,2 



Litany of St. (Benedict. 21$ 

St Benedict, perfect lover of silence, 
solitude and retreat, 

St Benedict endowed with the sci 
ence of the saints, 

St Benedict, burning with charity for 
thy neighbor, 

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of 
the world, spare us, Lord. 

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of 
the world, hear us, O Lord. 

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of 
the world, have mercy on us. 

PRAYER. 

O Lord, who hast rendered St. Benedict 
of Sanfratello illustrious by the admirable 
penance he practised, and by the favors 
thou hast bestowed upon him, grant us, 
by his mediation, that, imitating his exam* 
pie, and mortifying ourselves for love of 
thee, we may, through thy mercy, participate 
in the glory he now enjoys in heaven, 
Amen 



BX 4700 .6356 C3713 1895 SM( 

Car let t i , Giuseppe . 

Life of St. Benedict jj 

surnamed "The Moor 1 

47232922